Using task cards in whole group instruction

Using Task Cards in Whole Group Instruction

Using Task Cards in Whole Group Instruction


If you picture back to school this year as including an unusually large amount of whole group instruction due to social distancing, don’t assume that you might as well not even break out all of those great task cards you’ve collected! So maybe you aren’t going to be doing small group or partner activities any time soon(!), but task cards have another great feature that may have been overlooked.


Since task cards already break down the content into specific, discrete units, they can be a wonderful resource for whole class lessons, too.  Task cards make it especially easy to teach a topic one small skill at a time with built-in student practice at each step!


First select the specific cards for the points that you want to make today.  Arrange them in order.  Then in class, you can easily present one item at a time, showing the specific card on a screen in front of the room. Stop there for students to complete the questions on the card – built in practice as you go!  And the kids will stay right with you because they are all looking at that same card – great for keeping focused!


This way of presenting has the added advantage of being ready to use at all times.  Nothing to copy or set up except your presentation!  Kids can just respond on a sheet of paper, or use an answer sheet if you prefer.  And if some kids are absent, copies of those cards could be made for just those few students to take home.


For a time when you need your kids to stay put, this method of presentation could work well – it’s easy to use and focuses on specific skills or detailed lessons.  Here’s an example:


Lesson:  Story Elements – Setting

Suppose that you’ve been teaching or reviewing story elements, and today’s lesson is about setting.  You want kids to expand their knowledge of setting beyond just knowing what it means and identifying where a story takes place.  Maybe you want them to learn:


  • To identify and describe settings using text based evidence
  • To recognize the three elements of setting – time, place, and duration
  • To recognize how setting affects the rest of a story
  • and to make more use of settings in their own writing


Here’s a plan, using  Setting Task Cards:


1.  Practice using text based evidence to identify and describe a setting.


SettingTask Cards cards 8

Starting with a short passage like this one, the whole class can easily work together.  Students answer the questions on their own, and then discuss their answers.


2.  Practice identifying the time, place, and duration of a passage.


Setting Task Cards


Historical non-fiction, period novels, and science fiction usually have an obvious time period – a great place to start for this element of setting.



Card 16

News articles, historical events, and travel articles can all provide passages with clues to setting for students to decipher.


Card 15

After taking a look at specific examples together, kids can apply what they’ve learned to stories they have already read.


3.  See how the setting affects the rest of a story.


Card 28

It’s easy to see how setting affects the rest of a story once you start thinking about having the story happen in another time or place – such as setting a traditional fairy tale in the future!


4.  Plan to make more use of setting in students’ own writing .


Card 25


Setting isn’t just a great thing to understand for reading comprehension purposes, students can also improve their own writing by including more setting details.


To see more information about this set of cards, or task cards for other story elements or text structures, click on any of the above images.


Using Task Cards in Whole Group Instruction

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