Thursday, May 29, 2014

FLASH FREEBIE: Close Reading System Paired with Informational Text - Differentiated

Close reading strategies and the implementation of them within the classroom is vital in regard to meeting the common core state standards (CCSS). I've struggled with finding a "close reading" system that my students can apply to any text they're given. I recently created my own system (by using bits and pieces of strategies created by other credible educators) and used it to build a few lessons/activities that are effective in the classroom. I am offering the first and most interesting (in my opinion) as a FLASH FREEBIE in my TPT store!

Check it out: 

FLASH FREEBIE High-Interest Informational Text #1 - Close Read- Differentiated

I'd love to hear what you think about this strategy and/or activity in the comments! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Engaging Task Cards for Middle School and High School Classrooms

I don't know if you've received the memo.... BUT..... Task cards are one of the "trendiest" and "engaging" tools to hit middle and high school classrooms in quite awhile. I don't usually jump on the "trend" bandwagon (for obvious reasons) but I am confident in the fact that I will be using task cards in my classroom until I retire (and that's a looooooong time from now)!

What are task cards and how can they be used in any classroom? 

To put it simply, task cards can be thought of as a set playing cards for the classroom. All task card sets differ in purpose and design, but each card typically contains a task that a student must perform. These tasks can be content-related, team-building activities or even creative writing prompts.

How can I make task cards "work" in my classroom? 

There are a zillion methods and activities that can be implemented within your classroom! The fun part is getting your hands on a set of awesome task cards and experimenting with which method and/or activity works best with your content and students! Read to the bottom of this post to learn two different methods that I have found to be extremely effective in my 8th grade English classroom!

5 Engaging Task Card Sets for Middle School and High School Classrooms

I have spent hours creating unique and original task card sets because I was coming up short when searching for task cards that met my particular needs. Take a look and see if any of these sets would align with your classroom content (and click on the title to learn more about the product)!

FLASH FREEBIE: Check out the task card set below while it's still free! I'd love to know what you think! 

1. 12 Literature Circle Task Cards - Any Novel or Story - Spark Critical Thinking

2. 24 Literature Circle Task Cards - Any Novel or Story - Critical Thinking Skills

4. 24 Task Cards - Context Clues and Determining Word Meaning - CCSS L.6-12.4

5.  The Giver: 30 Task Cards Promoting Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Engagement

Check these products out if you are looking for Spring task cards or Easter task cards to use in your classroom!

And finally...... as promised..... my two FAVORITE ways to use task cards in my classroom: 


1.  Print and cut a set of all 24 task cards for each group of students (I have my students in 8 groups of 4). 

2.  Print out two copies of the “response sheet” you prefer the students to use and then make a two-sided 
copy for each student. 

3.  Each student’s “response sheet” should have a total of 8 blank task cards to record their answers.

4.  Take each set of task cards and put them in some type of container that allows students to randomly draw 
one task card at a time. 

5.  Students can work on completing the tasks for 8 different task cards at their own pace. 

6.  After they draw a task card and read it, they must record the number of that task card in the blank 
number area on their response sheet. This will allow you to know which task card they have responded to. 

Students love this activity because they think it’s a challenge to complete their tasks first! I’ve seen students 
get so into it that they forget they are practicing the skills they need to master the standards.


I use the “Task Card Station” activity if I feel that the students need to get up and move around the classroom. 

1.  Print and cut a set of the task cards (you may need to use two sets if you have more than 24 students). 

2.  Divide all students into teams of 4 students. I even allow them a minute to come up with a team name for 

3.  Print out a double-sided “response sheet for each team (or you can print one for every student). 

4.  Each student’s “response sheet” should have a total of 8 blank task cards to record their answers.

5.  Divide the task cards up into 6 sets of 4 by card number:

Set 1: Task Cards 1-4, Set 2: Task Cards 5-8, Set 3: Task Cards 9-12, Set 4: Task Cards 13-16, Set 5: Task Cards 17-20, and Set 6: Task Cards 21-14!

6. Place a different set of cards on each station. 

7. Instruct students to start at a specific station and work on completing all task cards at that station. Once 
finish, they must relocate to a station that they haven’t been to and complete the task cards at that station. 

8. They must continue visiting new stations and completing new tasks until they’ve filled up their entire response sheet with answer to unique task cards. 

Rewarding and Eye-Opening: My Favorite "End of the Year" Activity for Any Grade or Classroom

Today in class, I rolled out my favorite, by far, "End of the Year" activity, which I call "A Letter to Next Year's Students". Before I explain how this works in my classroom, I will warn you that this activity can confirm your heroic contributions to the classroom throughout the year (yayyyy for us teachers!) and cause you to end the year on an encouraged and inspired note! With that being said, you might have an eye-opening experience when reading your students' true thoughts and feelings in regard to your class (depending on how honest you encourage them to be)! It can be tough to stomach, but it is a great way to reflect on past teaching practices and activities.

Here is how "A Letter to Next Year's Students" is broken down:

1. I have the students recall what we did on the first day of school, which included reading multiple letters written by last year's students. Their memory is always foggy, but they can usually recall the activity quickly.

2. I inform them that it is now time to write their very own letters to students who will be filling the seats in my classroom next year.

There are only a few basic rules to follow when composing their letters: 

  1. You must be 110% HONEST in regard to the content written in the letter. 
  2. There may be something about me (the teacher) or lesson/activity that you did not particularly enjoy throughout the year. I encourage you to include these things, but REMEMBER: You must be respectful when including these things in your letter. 
  3. This is going to be a valuable resource for next year's students, so be sure include valuable information and insight within the letter. 
  4. Have fun with it! 
Viola! Once written and turned in, you'll have your first activity of the next school year already planned and organized.... 

I start each class off with the following statement on the first day of school: 

"I could take the entire period to explain my personal background, classroom expectations and outline for this course..... But how would you know that I am telling the truth? YOU WOULDN'T! So instead of all of that.... I allowed my super students from last year tell you all about the year ahead of you in Room 30 - as well as things you might want to know about me and how I run this ship!" 

I have created a printable packet aligned with this activity that will guide students through the rules, a brainstorming activity related to experiences throughout the year, and a template for them to compose their letter with! Check it out here: 

A Letter to Next Year's Students - Fun "End of the Year" Activity

Joined Who else is doing it?

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