Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses

I’m not sure when I first learned about task cards, it was sometime after college, but I am a big fan. They are a great way to save paper, add variety, and even assess student learning without it feeling like a test or a quiz. There are a variety of ways to use task cards and I’ve tried many of them. Sometimes I’ll

hang/place task cards around the room, give students recording sheets and clipboards, and have them wander the room and complete the tasks as they find them (also known as student scoot). Sometimes I’ll give each student a card, have them complete the card, and pass it to the next student (also known as card scoot). I’ve also placed task cards and recording sheets in centers and allowed students to complete them there. Since my students typically sit in groups, I’ll often give each group a set of cards and allow them to chat as they grab cards, complete them, toss them back in the pile, and grab another card. All of these methods are great, but sometimes you just want to do something a little different. Back in July I shared with you alternative uses for sort cards. Today, I’d like to share with you five alternative uses for task cards. In no particular order, here are some of the more unique ways my students and I have used task cards.

Bounce It In

To play this game, you’ll need a set of task cards, ten plastic drinking cups, and a ping pong ball for each group. On the inside lip of each cup write a number 1-10 with a marker. Each group should set their cups up like bowling pins, with the number 1 cup in front and a line of numbers 7-10 in back. Set the task cards face down in a pile on the opposite end of the table from the cups. Students take turns turning over a task card and completing the task. Correctly completing the task is worth five points and the chance to bounce the ball into the cups. If the ball lands in a cup, the number on the cup becomes bonus points for that student. The student with the most points at the end is the winner.

Jenga–Two Ways

About a year ago, I shared with you an out-of-the-box idea for using Jenga to practice building sentences. In response to that post, another teacher told me how she uses Jenga with task cards in her class. She numbers the Jenga blocks 1-24 (or however many task cards you usually have in a given set).

Students then play Jenga as normal, but when they push/pull out a block, they attempt to complete the corresponding task before placing the block on the top of the stack. If successful, the student earns two points. Students continue to remove and replace pieces, completing tasks and earning points. If the tower falls before the time is up, that student receives negative five points, and the game is restarted. The student with the most points at the end of the playing time is the winner.

The second creative use of Jenga is a game I like to call Tower Building. Divide students into teams (2-4 per team) and issue each team a set of Jenga or other building blocks. Team members take turns choosing a task card and attempting to complete it. If successful, the student gains two points for his/her team and the opportunity to add a block to the team’s tower. If a tower falls over, the team must restart their build. At the end of the game, the team with the highest tower earns ten additional points. The team with the most blocks in their tower earns ten additional points. The team with the most points (correct tasks plus any bonuses) wins the competition.

Grid Conquest

Two weeks ago I shared with you about Grid Conquest, a fun game inspired by Blokus. This is a great way to use task cards! The game board and some dry erase markers are the only supplies you need in addition to your task cards. The game board is a free download from below the picture in this post and I’m willing to bet you have more than a couple dry erase markers

in your classroom already. You can get all the details in the original post, but the short version is this: student takes and completes a task card, successful students color in a square on the board that is adjacent to a square he/she has already claimed. When all the task cards have been completed, or no students can claim any more squares, students add up the numbers in their claimed squares to determine their final scores. The student with the highest score wins.

Four In A Row

It’s been nearly two years since I first introduced my Context Clues Four In a Row game, and it’s a concept I’ve used to practice quite a few skills since. Four in a Row is also an excellent alternative use for task cards because once again all you need is your task cards, the game board (free download below the picture), and some dry erase markers. Played like

Connect Four, students must successfully complete a task card before making a mark on the game board. The first student to make four marks in a row is the winner.

Baseball Review

This particular idea takes a bit of work on the teacher’s part, but it’s a great way to review a lot of material. Take all of the sort/task cards from the time period you want to review (preparation for summative semester/year exams is a great time for this) and divide them by difficulty into four piles. The

easiest pile becomes your single questions, the most difficult pile your homerun questions, and the two in between are double and triple questions. Designate “bases” in your classroom (place to stand or desk to sit in) and divide your class into two teams. Team one sends a player up to bat who then tells you what type of question he/she would like to answer. If correct, the student moves to the appropriate base. If incorrect, the team receives a strike and the next player comes up to bat. Once a player is on base, he/she advances the appropriate number of bases as each subsequent player gets questions correct. Play continues until the team receives three strikes and then the other team is up to bat. If a particular type of question (single, double, triple, homerun) runs out, you can choose to either shuffle and restart them or state that no more questions of that type may be attempted (forcing students to try more difficult questions). This could also be an excellent icebreaker alternative for the first day/week of school. You could make your own questions with the previous grade’s standards, or ask the previous grade’s teacher for copies of their task cards and/or homework activities.

Now you know some of the more creative uses for task cards I’ve tried out in my classroom. I can assure you there have been other uses attempted that weren’t quite as successful, but it’s only by trying things that we can discover new favorite activities. What are some out-of-the-box uses for task cards you’ve found? Happy teaching, everyone!

Sort Cards: Alternative Uses

I love using sort cards! In fact, I use them in all of my vocabulary activity sets, including my phonics based vocabulary activity sets (and I have plans to add them to my academic vocabulary units). Sort cards are great for practicing vocabulary, but when I first started using them I kept thinking, “There has to be more I can do with these cards than have students match words to pictures/definitions.” It turns out there are A LOT more things you can do with sort cards, and today I’d like to share with you some of my (and my students’) favorites.

Memory

Do you remember the children’s game Memory? You place all of the cards upside down and take turns turning over two at a time. If the two cards you turn over match, you keep them and get an extra turn. Sort cards can be used in the same way. I suggest using two different colors of cards, one for the term and one for the picture/definition. This helps the game go faster because students aren’t turning over two terms or two pictures/definitions. Students turn over one of each color and, if they match, keep them and go again. The person with the most matches at the end of the game is the winner. This is a great way for students who aren’t as comfortable with verbal expression to practice vocabulary.

Game Smash

Use the sort cards and any gameboard and pieces (Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Sorry are some of our favorites) to create a new game. At the start of each turn, the student will draw a card and either name and spell the term represented by the picture/definition, or will define the term on the card. If correct, the student proceeds with his/her turn per the game rules. If not correct, the student’s turn is over.

Kaboom!

This game requires a few extra cards that simply say “Kaboom!” and an empty container of some kind. I have a set of Kaboom! cards (free download at the bottom) and several old oatmeal containers that I spray painted black and painted the word “Kaboom” on in red. To play, take one set of sort cards, mix in three to five Kaboom! cards, and place everything in your container. Students take turns drawing out cards. If the student draws a picture card, he/she names the term and spells and/or defines it. If the student draws a definition card, he/she names the term and spells it. If the student draws a term card, he/she defines it or uses it in a sentence. If the student is successful, he/she keeps the card. If the student is not successful, he/she discards the card. If the student draws a Kaboom! card, all of his/her cards, including the Kaboom! card, go into the discard pile. The student with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.

Fishing

I have several different Fishing For… games, but any set of sort cards can be used as a fishing game. Similarly to Kaboom!, you will need a few extra materials in addition to the sort cards. You’ll need some Shark! cards (free download at the bottom) and some fishing ponds. My ponds are simply old oatmeal containers I spray painted blue and then dressed up with some badly painted fish and seaweed. To play, again mix one set of sort cards and three to five shark cards in the container. Directions for what to do with each card are the same as for Kaboom!, with the Shark! card replacing the Kaboom! card.

Collection Race

I was watching a YouTube video, Grammar Games with Flashcards, and the creator, Jenny White, suggested a fun game for irregular verbs. She said to scatter base verb cards around the room, have students race to find a card, bring it to the teacher, and state all three forms (present, past, past participle) of the verb in order to keep the card as a point. I was thinking, why couldn’t this work with any set of sort cards? Students could be given a specific length of time to search the classroom for cards. They could bring the cards, one at a time, to the teacher (or other designated person) and state the term, spelling, and/or definition that corresponds to what is on the card. If successful, the student keeps the card as a point. If not successful, the teacher keeps the card as a point. The student (or teacher) with the most points at the end is the winner.

Around the World

Do you remember the math game Around the World? The teacher shows a math flashcard and the first of two students to call out the answer proceeds in the game while the second student goes to the end of the line. Again I ask, why can’t we play this with any set of sort cards? The teacher shows a sort card with a picture and/or definition. The first student to call out the correct term proceeds while the slower student goes to the end of the line. Theoretically, you could show the term card and have students give the definition, but I think that’s too many words to call out. Maybe the students could call out a synonym instead?

Tiddlywinks

This game also requires one extra piece of equipment: tiddlywinks, or some other flat disk students can flip. Lay your sort cards out on the floor or a large table in a grid pattern. Students gather around the sort card mat and take turns flipping their tiddlywink onto the mat. The student must then either name, define, or spell the term that corresponds with the card that his/her disk lands on in order to earn a point. You can increase the difficulty of this game by giving each student multiple discs of the same color (a different color for each student in the group). Rather than retrieving their discs after each turn, students leave them on the cards. In order to earn a point, students must land a disc on a previously unoccupied card and provide the correct term/definition/spelling.

Taboo/Pictionary

If you’re looking for a game that might be a little less movement and noise inducing, you can always try Taboo or Pictionary. Follow the rules for either of these classic games, using your sort cards as the prompt cards. (If you need to review the rules, you can read them here: Taboo, Pictionary.) When I play Taboo, I’ll underline words in the definitions students can’t use with a dry erase marker. Pictionary makes a great game for students who aren’t comfortable with verbally answering questions.

Conclusion

Are there more ways to use sort cards? Oh, yes! (Check out the YouTube video Charlie’s Lessons 10 Flashcard Games for some fun and simple ways to use picture cards.) These eight ideas just happen to be some of the most popular ones I’ve tried in my class. Many of them also work with task cards–just substitute answering the question or solving the problem on the task card for providing the term/spelling/definition. If you have other fun uses for sort cards, let us know in the comments! Happy teaching, everyone.


Here are the links to download the Kaboom! and Shark! cards:

To Be: In The World Series

I’m not a baseball fan, but I’ve had enough friends, colleagues, and students who are to understand at least the basics and to have attended a few games. Yesterday was the first game of the World Series, and even though it’s been a few years since Michigan’s beloved Detroit Tigers have been in the World Series (and even more since they won), I, like most Michiganders, am loyal to our Tigers. One summer my co-teacher and I taught an entire week’s worth of classes themed around baseball vs. cricket and we wore Detroit Tigers shirts every day! (Of course it may have also been a creative excuse to wear t-shirts to school each day…)

The World Series isn’t what really has me turning my thoughts towards baseball though (in truth I had to use Google to find out when it would be), the reason I was thinking about it is because I’m preparing a new-to-me class for next semester, a level one grammar class. Any ESL teacher knows the first grammar subject of any beginner’s level book: present tense to be. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve taught this particular grammar structure over the years, let’s just say a lot. When I first started teaching adults, and later middle school, it frustrated me that there were few games and other activities to practice basic grammar and vocabulary, such as present tense to be, designed for older learners. There were lots of cute games that looked like fun, but they were all geared for young children. Eventually I stopped being frustrated and decided to make my own. Am, Is, Are Triple Play was the first of many triple play activities I’ve designed, and one of the first activities I designed ever. It’s been through a few revisions over the years, the most recent of which being a face-lift and conversion to digital last year, but the heart of the game has remained the same.

A triple play activity is an activity that can be played in three different ways. This particular activity has the options of slap, response cards, or task cards. Over time I included board game versions as well, making them quadruple plays, but as this activity is baseball themed, and there’s no such thing as a quadruple play in baseball, so I haven’t changed it. If your students are absolutely in love with board games, you can always use the sentences (task cards) with a random game board and playing pieces to make it into one. For now, let’s just take a look at the three versions of play that do exist with this particular activity.

Slap

Slap

This is a fun whole-class game that all of my students enjoy. It was just a couple weeks ago I played a different version of it with my advanced adults and they wanted to know when we could play again. To play you need signs for each possible answer (for this game I made full page signs with Am, Is, Are on them), sentences missing the possible answers, and some fly swatters.

To play, divide the class into two teams. Each team sends one representative to the front of the room with the team’s fly swatter in hand. The opponents stand, facing the board where you’ve affixed the answer signs (I use strong magnets), fly swatters at the ready. The teacher reads one of the sentences, saying “blank” for the target word. The students then race to slap the sign containing the correct word to complete the sentence. The first student to slap the correct sign (or whoever’s swatter is on the bottom) wins a point for his/her team. The students return to their teams and new representatives are sent forward. It’s a quick, fun way to practice both the target grammar/vocabulary and listening skills.

Response Cards

Response Cards

Response cards are a great way to quickly assess the entire class’ knowledge of a particular grammar topic. They are also a nice quiet listening practice activity for those days when your ears (and head) need a break from all of the noise. All you need is a set of cards with the possible answers for each student.

To proceed with this activity, give each student his/her own set of cards with the possible answers. I highly recommend printing on card stock and laminating for durability and reuse. The teacher reads one of the sentences aloud, saying “blank” for the target word. The students then hold up, word facing towards the teacher, the card containing the correct word to complete the sentence. The teacher can then quickly scan through the cards and get a sense of who is correct, and who is not (you can also make the cards different colors for even faster checks). If you’re practicing grammar/vocabulary that is new to the students, I recommend telling students that no one can raise an answer card until you give the signal. Read the sentence as before, wait a moment, repeat the sentence, wait again, and then give the signal. This will give students more time to think, and reduce the chance students will “know” the answer because they see someone else put it up first. It’s also possible to do this activity by having students write their answers on white boards and show them to you, but that takes a little longer. If you’re looking for a digital means of checking answers, look into Plickers.

Task Cards

Task Cards

Task cards can be used in so many different ways: as cards for board games, student scoot, card scoot, center work, etc. All you need are cards with individual sentences/problems/questions on them and a recording sheet for student answers.

My middle schoolers always liked using task cards as a student scoot activity. I’d spread the cards around the classroom (hanging on walls, sitting on shelves or desks, etc.) and give each student a recording sheet and clip board. The students would then walk around the room, stopping at each card, and recording their answers on the provided sheet. It’s very important to remind them to pay attention to which number card they are looking at and to record their answers in the correct squares! Even when I remind them to do this, there’s usually at least one who doesn’t follow directions and ends up getting nearly every question wrong because he/she wrote the answers in the wrong boxes. My adults prefer to stay in their seats, so I usually give each group of 4-6 students a stack of task cards and enough recording sheets for all group members. They then pick up a card, read it, record their answer, and return the card to the center before taking another. I still remind them each time to pay attention to the card numbers but it’s not nearly as often that one forgets and has problems as a result.

Digital Version

Digital Version

This was also one of the first activities I digitized, and I knew I wanted to see my students’ answers to these particular practice sentences, so the digital task cards that students clicked through weren’t going to work. The need for a digital version of this activity also came long before I learned how to make self-grading digital task cards, with or without drop-down answer options, so I needed another option.

What I decided to do was create a drag-and-drop activity. I shrunk my task cards down a bit and made them the background of each slide (to prevent accidental, or not so accidental, changes). I also added four movable (when in edit mode) baseballs to each slide. The students then read each sentence. To indicate their answer, a baseball was dragged and dropped into the correct glove for each sentence. To check students answers I had to scroll through each slide deck and look at where they placed the baseballs. It was not very convenient, but it also didn’t take nearly as long as I feared it might. Let’s just say if I need to use the digital format of this activity again I’ll probably do another redesign and create self-grading task cards instead.

Am, Is, Are Triple Play is far from the only activity I’ve developed to practice the present tense of to be, but it’s always been a favorite. I recognize that’s likely because it’s one of the first activities I ever developed on my own, but it seems to be consistently popular with my students as well. Here’s hoping next semester’s class enjoys it as much as those of the past. Happy teaching, everyone!


Need some more activities/resources for present tense to be? Try these links:

Need multiple activities? Want a discount? Try one of these bundles:

Interested in more baseball-themed activities? Try these links:

Homophone Sghoul & Self-Grading Task Cards With Drop Down Menu How To

Even though Christmas items are already starting to take over in stores around me it’s still October and Halloween is next on my calendar. In the past I’ve shared about the Spooky Synonyms bulletin board my students have done and one of our favorite pieces of Halloween literature, but I’m really excited about the treat I have for this year–a trick to make self-grading digital task cards even better!

Homophone Sghoul: Paper Version

The Activity:

Homophone Sghoul, task cards to practice the use of their/there/they’re is the latest spooky craze with my students. In these twenty-four school-themed sentences, students help the ghost choose the correct school (their, there, they’re) to complete the sentence. The cards can be used as task cards, a board game, a slap game, or response cards. If you’re not familiar with these terms, here’s a quick overview of each:

Task Cards: students choose a card, read it, record their answer in the correct box of a paper recording sheet, and then replace the card before choosing another. Some people refer to these cards as “Scoot” and, rather than giving groups of students entire sets of cards, pass out one card to each student. The students then pass the cards from person to person until every student has seen every card. I’ve also used the cards as a student scoot. I hang them around the room, or set them on various flat surfaces, and give each student a recording sheet and clipboard. The students then walk around the room, reading cards and recording their answers, until they’ve completed all of the tasks.

Board Game: use the sentence cards as the game cards. Students draw a card, verbally complete the sentence, and (if correct) roll/move their piece on the game board. I give groups an answer card they can use to check who is correct if a dispute occurs.

Slap: this is a fun whole class game. I use strong magnets to attach large answer signs to the whiteboard. The class is divided into two teams and each team is given a fly swatter. One student from each team comes to the front. I read a sentence and students use the fly swatter to slap the correct word to complete the sentence. The first person to correctly slap the word wins a point for his/her team.

Response Cards: give each student a set of small cards with a single answer on each. Read a single sentence aloud. Students hold up the card with the correct word to complete the sentence. This is a great way to quickly judge which students understand the material and which do not.

Homophone Sghoul Self-Grading Task Cards: Google Sheets
Homophone Sghoul Self-Grading Task Cards: Microsoft Excel

The Digital Version:

Enough about the paper version though, what I’m really excited about is the self-grading digital task card version of the activity. It was August of 2020, that I shared with you how to make self-grading digital task cards using Google Sheets. They work great and both my students and I have enjoyed using them to practice many different skills. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was how students had to spell words exactly right or have them marked incorrect. This was most evident to me when some of my beginning level students were practicing the use of much or many and one student spelled many with an e (meny) on every single “card.” While I do think it’s important for students to practice spelling words correctly, that wasn’t my first priority with this particular activity. It was also a source of frustration for the student, who thought she didn’t understand the lesson (but she actually did–she had used the word many correctly every time). I started thinking about it, trying to find a solution to the problem, and decided to experiment with using a drop down menu, along with the conditional formatting, to create the task cards. It ended up working like a charm and here are the step-by-step directions for creating your own self-grading digital task cards, complete with drop down menu answers.

The How To:

In the original post I gave you step-by-step directions for creating these cards in Google Sheets. This time I’ll give you the directions for using Microsoft Excel to create the cards. The process is similar, but there are slight differences, so I’ll include Sheets-specific directions for creating the drop down menu. The good news is the files transfer well, so it is possible to create in one program and up or download it into the other with minimal effort.

  1. Set up your directions tab.
    • Right click on the first tab at the bottom of your sheet.
    • Click rename and type “directions.” Hit enter.
    • Type directions for the students into the first cell at the top of the page. You can always type a list by placing each subsequent direction in the next cell/row down.
  2. Add more tabs (sheets) to your document.
    • Add a new tab by clicking the + at the bottom of the screen.
    • Rename the tab “1”
    • Add another tab by clicking the +
    • Rename the tab “Answers”
    • Add a third tab by clicking the +
    • Rename the third tab “Grade”
  3. Create your first task card.
    • Click on tab 1.
    • Add pictures and arrange them as you see fit by clicking Insert, Pictures before resizing and dragging/dropping them into position.
    • Choose a cell to be your answer cell
      • Change the color of it by clicking Home and the Paint Can.
      • Also on the Home menu, set the justification for the cell to “center” and adjust the font and font size.
    • The cell directly to the left of the answer cell will become the first half of your sentence/task (everything before the blank on the paper version).
      • Be sure this cell is set to right justification.
      • Adjust the font and size.
      • Type the first half of your sentence.
    • The cell directly to the right of the answer cell will become the second half of your sentence/task (everything after the blank on the paper version).
      • Be sure this cell is set to left justification (should be automatically set to this).
      • Adjust the font and size.
      • Type the second half of your sentence.
  4. Click on the answer cell on your first card (tab 1) and set up the drop down menu.
    • Excel directions for a short list:
      • Click on Data.
      • Click Data Validation
      • Click Data Validation again (in the drop down menu)
      • Under Settings and Allow choose List.
      • Under Settings and Source type your answer options, separate them with commas (in my case I typed: there, their, they’re)
      • Click OK
    • Excel directions for a long list:
      • If you have a long list of answer options you’ll want to create a hidden sheet/tab and type each option into a different cell in a single column.
      • Then, on the sheet where you want to add the drop down menu, click on the cell where the menu will appear.
      • Click on Data
      • Click on Data Validation
      • Click on Data Validation again
      • On the Settings tab under Allow choose List
      • Click the up arrow (source icon) at the end of the Source box.
      • Select your list of items on the hidden sheet.
      • Click OK.
    • Sheets directions:
      • Click on Data
      • Click on Data Validation
      • Under Criteria choose List of Items
      • Enter the items, separated by commas, in the next box.
      • Be sure to click the “Reject input” option for On invalid data
      • Click save
    • If you prefer to see these directions as a video, you can check out these two videos (not mine) on YouTube:
  5. Create more task cards
    • Create enough task cards so you will have one card per sentence/task.
      • Right click on tab 1.
      • Select move or copy
      • Click Create Copy
      • Click on “Answers” in the Before Sheet box (if you forget this step you can always drag and drop the tab later)
      • Click OK
    • Rename each card with ascending numbers.
      • Right click on the new tab.
      • Click Rename
      • Type the appropriate number
      • Hit enter
    • Go to each card and change the image(s) (if desired) and type in the sentence halves for each number.
  6. It’s now time to set up the Answer tab. This is one of the longer parts.
    • In the top row type the words Question, Answer, Points in adjacent columns.
    • Enter numbers in the question tab
      • Click on the first cell under Question
      • Type 1
      • Highlight all the cells 1 to the final answer (I highlighted cells 2-25 for 24 questions total).
      • On the Home menu click Fill, Series (column, linear, step value 1), OK
    • Set up the answers column
      • Click on the first cell under Answer
      • Type =
      • Click on the corresponding question tab at the bottom of the screen
      • Click the answer (colored) cell
      • Click enter
      • Repeat these steps for each of the cells in the answer column
    • Set up the points column
      • Click on the first cell under Points
      • Type =(
      • Click on the corresponding answer cell (should be the cell just to the left)
      • Type = “answer“1,0) **Do not type the word answer though–type the correct answer for the sentence. On my cards I typed either =”their”1,0) or =”they’re”1,0) or =”there”1,0).
      • Hit enter
      • Copy this down the column by grabbing the bottom right corner of the cell (cursor will turn into a +) and dragging down to the last cell in the list.
      • Go back to each cell in the points column and be sure the answer (word in quotation marks) is correct for the given sentence.
    • Add a cell for total score.
      • At the bottom of the Question/Answer/Points column leave one row/cell empty.
      • In the next cell down of the Answer column type Score
      • Click the adjacent cell (Points column)
      • In the Home menu click AutoSum
      • Check that the correct cells are highlighted (only the Points column cells for the sentences/tasks).
      • Hit enter.
    • Add a cell for percentage score.
      • Skip a row after the score cells.
      • In the next cell down of the Answer column type Percent
      • Click the adjacent cell (Points column)
      • Type =
      • Click the cell with the total score (should be two cells above your current cell).
      • Type /# of questions **Do not type the words “# of questions”–type the actual number of questions. On my cards I typed 24 because I had 24 sentences.
      • Hit enter.
      • Click on the cell again.
      • Right click.
      • Click Format cells, Number, Percent, OK.
    • Conditionally format the Answer cells
      • Click on the first cell under the word Answer.
      • On the Home menu click Conditional Formatting
      • Click Highlight Cell Rules
      • Click Text that contains
      • Type the correct answer for that question/sentence
      • Choose the color you want the cell to turn (I chose green)
      • Click OK
    • You will likely want to hide this tab. This allows you to know exactly which questions the students missed, but keeps that information from the students. They will still be able to see their score on the grade tab, and go back to make corrections if they choose, but they will not know exactly which numbers were incorrect. This forces them to actually think about the answers, rather than just click through the options on the drop down menu until the answer registers as correct on the Answers tab.
      • To hide this tab:
        • Right click on Answers at the bottom.
        • Click Hide
      • To reveal this tab (when you are ready to look at it):
        • Right click on any tab at the bottom.
        • Click Unhide
        • Click the name of the tab you want to reveal
        • Click OK
  7. Set up the Grade Tab.
    • Click on the tab Grade.
    • Add any pictures you’d like to have by clicking Insert-Image.
    • Add whatever text you’d like students to see.
    • Choose an empty cell and type the word Score.
    • Skip a row and type the word Percent.
    • Click the cell adjacent to Score
      • Type =
      • Click the Answer tab
      • Click the cell with the total score in it
      • Hit enter
    • Click the cell adjacent to Percent.
      • Type =
      • Click the Answer tab
      • Click the cell with the total percent in it
      • Hit enter

The Wrap Up:

As I shared in my post a little over a year ago, self-grading digital task cards are great. There’s no printing/laminating/cutting to do, students get a lot of good practice with various skills, and teachers still get the formative assessment data they need. Happy teaching, everyone!

Conjunctions: The Tie That Binds

Am I the only one who hears, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words…” every time someone mentions conjunctions? As we all know, conjunctions are the words that hold our sentences together, the tie that binds words, phrases, and clauses into compound and complex sentences. Since my beginning level students often struggle to choose the correct conjunction (and, but, or, so), I decided to make a fun practice activity.

The Tie That Binds: Conjunctions is a set of 48 simple sentences that can be combined using one of the four main conjunctions (and, but, so, or). I wanted this activity to be versatile and we have five (six if you count the new digital version) different ways of using these cards.

Scoot Recording Sheet

Scoot: I designed the activity so the 48 sentences can be printed as 24 task cards with a pair of sentences on each card (see image in physical sort version below), or as 48 task cards with one sentence per card (cut the dotted line between the sentences). When we do this activity as a scoot, I pass out the 24 task cards with two sentences on each. Students then read the two sentences and, on their recording sheets, write a single sentence that uses a conjunction to combine the original sentence pair. This is particularly good practice for slightly more advanced students since they actually need to combine the sentences, deciding which words to keep and/or leave out. Less proficient students can simply write the conjunction they would use to combine the sentences, rather than the entire new sentence.

Physical Sort

Physical Sort: To do a physical sort, all students are given a set of 24 task cards, each with two sentences on them. Each group of 4-6 students is also given four containers labeled AND, BUT, OR, SO (paper plates or small plastic baskets work well). Students then read the sentence pairs and place each task card into the basket representing the conjunction that would best combine them. Pro tip: print each set of cards on different color cardstock, this allows you to quickly sort out the different sets of cards after multiple students toss them into the same baskets.

Four Corners

Four Corners: In this activity the students do all of the moving. I place a large conjunction sign in each corner of the classroom. I then read out the two sentences from a single task card (for lower proficiency students I also put the card on the document camera and display the sentences on the board for them to read along with). Students then move and stand in the corner representing the conjunction that would best combine the sentences. The final step is to ask for a volunteer to verbally combine the two sentences using the correct conjunction.

Response Cards

Response Cards: This version of the activity is a great way to quickly assess the entire class’ use of the four conjunctions without having to look at individual papers or worrying about students simply following the crowd (as in four corners). I give each student a set of four cards (as pictured here). I then read/display a task card with two sentences on it. Students hold up the card with the best conjunction to combine the two sentences. This works best if you tell students not to hold up their card until you give the signal. Read the sentences, wait a few seconds, then give the signal. The wait time gives students time to think and make a decision, rather than just look at what card everyone else is holding up and follow suit. This can also be done using whiteboards: students can either write the correct conjunction on the board or write a single sentence that combines the original two.

Match & Join

Match & Join: My favorite way to do this activity takes a bit more planning, but it visually reinforces the idea that conjunctions join two sentences together. To prepare, I cut the task cards into 48 cards with a single sentence on each and punched a single hole into each card. I then created my conjunction rings by printing the conjunctions on address labels, wrapping them around binder rings, and sticking them together to form a flag. I gave each student (or pair of students, depending on numbers) a set of sentence cards and a supply of conjunction rings. Students then matched the sentences (a numbered sentence with an unnumbered sentence) and used the correct conjunction ring to bind them together. This version was the most work for me to create, but it is a lot of fun and the physical representation helps to reinforce the purpose of conjunctions.

Digital Task Cards

Digital Version: As with just about every other activity I’ve ever used, I needed a digital version for this past year. Since there was no way to get physical materials to my students I decided on a set of self-grading digital task cards (directions for making your own in this post). Each “card” has the two sentences, two pictures (one for each sentence), and a combined sentence that is missing its conjunction. Students type the conjunction into the indicated cell and it is automatically added to the answer sheet at the end. The answer sheet (can be hidden) is conditionally formatted to grade the answers and sends the final number/percentage correct to a grade sheet for a quick reference. These digital task cards are available in both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel formats.

As I said in the beginning, I primarily use The Tie That Binds with my beginning to low intermediate students. When working on conjunctions with my intermediate and advanced students I tend to play Compounding Conjunctions, a board game practicing forming compound sentences with conjunctions (and, but, so, because). I’m really excited to be using these games in person again this semester and am looking forward to hearing what this semester’s group of students thinks about them. Happy teaching, everyone!


Need some of those links again? Here they are:

St. Patrick’s Day Math

One Step Equations with Integers Mystery Picture: Sheets
One Step Equations with Integers Task Cards: Paper Version
Solving Equations Poster/Anchor Chart: FREE!

Warning: If you haven’t figured it out by now (and the name of my blog wasn’t a clue), I am not a math teacher. I have had the privilege of working with some excellent math teachers, but I am not a math teacher. I will be forever grateful to my math teaching colleagues who patiently answered my many questions, and never once laughed when I walked in their room with my book literally on my head to cover my frustration. That said, as an ESL teacher, I am often required to teach subjects I am not comfortable with (Science! I am definitely NOT a science teacher!), math in particular. It’s taken a few years (OK, more than a few), but thanks to my wonderful colleagues and a lot of practice, I finally feel relatively comfortable teaching math, at least through pre-algebra. Today’s post is math related, and is dedicated to all of the wonderful math teachers who put up with me in PLC meetings (HCA FePi and Pontiac Middle, I’m thinking of you!) and patiently explained the concepts I never grasped as a student.

When faced with teaching content I’m not comfortable with I tend to fall back on teaching strategies that I am comfortable using. For me, that means visuals, games, task cards, and other active learning materials. One year we were approaching St. Patrick’s Day and my students were struggling with integers and one step equations. I’d already provided them with a visual, a color-coded poster that reviewed vocabulary and the steps to follow (use the link to get your own free copy), and we’d practiced more times than I cared to think about. Desperate for more practice activities, I decided to make a set of task cards. Rather than use X or Y as the variable, I used a shamrock outline instead. While this one activity didn’t magically transmit the skill of solving one step equations with integers into my students’ heads, it was a fun and different way to practice. The students enjoyed working in groups and being able to do something that wasn’t a worksheet for a change.

Since this St. Patrick’s Day will be a little different, I wanted to make a digital version of the activity so students could continue to have a little fun while practicing this important skill. I could have created a set of digital task cards, but that would have required me to come up with answer choices and not provided teachers with any feedback on student learning. Self-grading digital task cards were also an option, and it would solve my problems with digital task cards, but I wasn’t overly excited about the idea. I finally decided to make a digital mystery picture (for a tutorial on how I create them, see this blog post).

The hardest part of any digital mystery picture creation, in my opinion, is the creation of the picture. Since these task cards were originally St. Patrick’s Day themed, I wanted to continue in that vein. I settled on the picture that you see above: a pot of gold under a rainbow. I’m not an artist, but basic shapes are doable, and the rounded shapes were easier to create than I’d feared. I will admit that I went a little crazy filling in the background, and ended up with far more squares that needed to be colored in than I’d expected, but it all worked out in the end. I was able to reuse the equations from the paper task cards, but this time I used the traditional variable X instead of a shamrock. I’m quite happy with the end result, and I think it’s a fun way for students to practice. Teachers are still not going to see student work, but they can see their final answers, and students receive immediate feedback as to the accuracy of their answers.

As I said in the beginning, a bit of a different post for me. Next week I’ll be happily ensconced back in the friendly world of grammar, vocabulary, and all things English, but I wanted to wish everyone an early Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and give a quick shout-out to my math teaching friends. HCA FePi and Pontiac Middle math PLC, I couldn’t have done it without you! You know who you are, and you know where to find me if you want a copy of the digital activity. Happy teaching, everyone.

Children’s Literature Based Activities for All Levels

It is no secret that I love using children’s literature, especially picture books, in my teaching. My students all love them too. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching children, teens, or adults, they all enjoy being read to. If much time passes between my bringing a book to class, my older students will come up and ask me when we’re going to have “story time” again. This blog is more evidence of my obsession, with posts about The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash, The Giving Tree, Miss Nelson Is Missing, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, How I Became a Pirate, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to name a few. Some day I’ll write a complete post on why I use so many picture books in class, but not today.

One of the most frequently featured authors in my class is Dr. Seuss. On the one hand, as an ESL teacher, his books drive me (and my students) a little crazy because of how many made-up words they contain. On the other hand, his tendency to write primarily with high frequency words makes the books very accessible for language learners. Dr. Seuss’ books have also been translated into 30 languages, which means most of my students are familiar with at least one of them in their first language. Being familiar with the characters and story allows them to more easily access the English content. For those few students who haven’t heard of Dr. Seuss, or those books they haven’t already read, reading them provides the opportunity for them to create common ground with their English-speaking peers, most of whom grew up reading Dr. Seuss.

As a teacher it seems I’m contractually obligated to, as one student put it, “ruin books” with work. While I love to read, and I do believe there is a need for more pleasure reading in education, I rarely have the luxury of just enjoying a book with my older students. Sadly, story time is not an accepted practice in most secondary and higher educational institutes, so there needs to be some objectifiable learning that takes place along with the enjoyment of a good story, and our times with Dr. Seuss are no exception.

When I’m working with beginning language learners, bringing in educational objectives is fairly easy. All I have to do is continue to teach the same things teachers have been using Dr. Seuss books to teach for decades. Green Eggs and Ham is one of our favorites, and we have three different sorting activities that we do. In the first we match picture word cards to form rhyming pairs (also a great way to reinforce vocabulary). The second has various words from the book on green eggs and hams that students sort into alphabetical order. The third requires students to match the contraction green hams to the green eggs that have the original two words. All three activities are available as a discounted bundle, or as a digital drag and drop set.

My more proficient students like Dr. Seuss as well, but it’s a little harder to fit him into their educational objectives. One year my students were really struggling with classifying sentences as either active or passive voice, and especially with rewriting them as the opposite voice. (Side question: why do we even require them to learn that? They can write in the passive voice, they can write in the active voice, they know when to use each. Why do they need to be able to convert between the two?) I had already run through all of my various teaching tools, practice activities, and games when they asked me for one more chance to practice. Not having any idea how I’d deliver, I promised to bring something to our next class. I decided to make a task card set and, to add a little bit of fun to a not-so-fun lesson, to write the sentences about famous Dr. Seuss characters and books. My students loved it! They not only received one more opportunity to practice with active and passive voice (and the conversion between the two), but they started talking, reminiscing about their favorite Dr. Seuss books and characters, introducing classmates to new-to-them books, and learning about books they’d missed out on themselves. It turned out to be one of those lessons that was full of authentic student talk, the kind we ESL teachers dream about. The trend continued the next semester with another group of students, and hasn’t stopped yet. Each time I use this activity the result is the same: happy students, good practice with the objective, and lots of authentic speaking practice as well.

When we went digital last year, I didn’t want to give up the activity and created a digital version of the task cards. In the digital version students move the X to indicate if a sentence is active or passive. They then use the adjacent text box to rewrite the sentence in the opposite voice. While still very effective for practicing active and passive voice, the digital version isn’t nearly as much fun because the spontaneous talk and interactive nature of being around a table, or set of desks, together is missing. A small portion of this activity is included in the writing section English Skillology, level 3, if you want to take a look at it.

While on the surface it may seem that picture books, and especially the silly picture books authors such as Dr. Seuss are famous for, are too “babyish” for older learners, my experience tells me differently. My older learners love them just as much as the younger ones, and sometimes even more so because of the memories associated with them, or the chance to create new memories with their own children. Happy teaching, everyone!

Multiplication Fact Practice and A Helpful Slides Add On

Multiplication Picking Apples Digital Task Cards
Multiplication and Division Picking Apples: Paper Version

The vast majority of my students through the years have needed basic math fact practice, especially with their times tables. The reason for this need varied from it was what they were learning that year, to interrupted education, to never learned them in the first place, etc. At the end of the day, the reason the students needed practice didn’t matter, the fact that they needed it did. Today I’d like to share with you two of my students’ favorite multiplication (can be adjusted for other operations, especially addition) games that can also be used as time fillers at the end of a class period. Then I’d like to tell you about another game that gets students up and moving, the digital task cards I created to replace it for distance learning, and the newest add-on that has me excited.

Shake ‘N Multiply
All this game requires is a few basic items that you likely have laying around the house already, and about two minutes of your time. You will need: an empty egg carton (I use the 12 cup version, but you could use 18), a couple of pom poms, and a marker. To make the game, open the egg carton and number the bottom of each cup 1-12. Drop in two pom poms, or other small objects. I like the pom poms because they are cheap and, more importantly, quiet, but you could use beans, marbleserasers, anything that will move around the carton. Close the lid and your game creation is finished.

To play the game put the students in pairs or groups (I do no more than four to a group to prevent boredom while waiting for their turn, pairs is my favorite way to play.), and give each set of students a prepared egg carton. The first player shakes the carton, opens the lid, and multiplies the two numbers the pom poms are on. If he/she is correct, he/she gets a point. The second player then closes the lid, shakes, and multiplies the two numbers indicated. Play continues in this manner until time is up. The player with the most points is the winner.

Since the cartons are free, pom poms are extremely cheap, and set up takes almost no time at all, I keep sets of these in my classroom year round. When there are five minutes left in class all I have to do is pass out the cartons and students can play. It’s a great academic time filler for the end of class, or a nice brain break for when we need a change of pace.

Toss ‘N Multiply
Requiring even fewer materials, and taking almost as little time to create, is my students’ other favorite fact practice game. All you need for Toss ‘N Multiply is a small soccer ball (the one I use is size 1.5, 6″), and a marker. The reason I use the soccer ball is that the clearly defined sections make it easy to label. Write the numbers 1-12 in the sections of the ball, repeating as many times as necessary. If you get a ball with black and white sections, simply use a silver marker on the black sections. Let the numbers dry (should only take a few seconds), and set up is complete.

To play, have students gather in a circle. You can choose to play as a whole class, or in groups of three to six students. Students must toss the ball under hand, and catch it with two hands. Toss the ball to a student, reminding him/her to catch with both hands. The student then looks and multiplies whatever two numbers his/her thumbs are on. There will be a couple of sections without numbers, due to the presence of logos and other advertising, but the student can always use a different finger if his/her thumb is on one of those sections. If the student is correct, he/she stays in the game. The ball is then tossed to another student who repeats the process. If a student answers incorrectly, he/she is out of the game and must sit down. The last student standing is the winner.

Again, this is the perfect game for filling time at the end of class, or a brain break during class. The ball takes up very little room at all, and other than having students stand in a circle, there is no prep work.

Picking Apples
This last activity does take a little more prep and time, but it is still a lot of fun. When we play Picking Apples, my students help me clear space by shoving all of the desks to each side of the room. We then have a starting line at one end, and a table for our apples at the other. I divide the students into two to four teams, and each team has a set of cards (we usually put them on a chair near the team’s starting area) and a bucket. At the opposite end of the room I place a table and hundreds of miniature apple erasers. When I start the game, the first person on each team grabs the top card, computes the answer to the problem shown (I have sets for multiplication and division as well as addition and subtraction), runs to the opposite side of the room, gathers the correct number of apples for the answer, and runs back to the team. If correct, he/she earns a point for his/her team. The second person then takes the bucket, grabs a new card, runs to the other end, dumps out the apples from person one, and gathers the correct number for his/her card. Play continues in this way until time is called. The team with the most points wins. When playing this game with more than two teams, I will appoint at least one student to be my fellow answer checker. Also, when the answer is a large number (such as 144), I do not take time to count all of the apples, I look, estimate, and ask the student to tell me verbally how many are there.

This year has brought new challenges to our lives; students are no longer all in the classroom together, and when they are in the classroom the sharing of materials is forbidden. Thus there is no Picking Apples game play this year. Instead I created digital task cards for students to practice with. Each card features a single problem written in the clouds, a basket to hold their apples, and an apple tree with over 150 apples on it (I copied and pasted the apple about 15 times, selected them all, aligned them to center and middle, and then copied and pasted the stacks to create “infinity” piles of apples in the tree.). On all of the sets except subtraction, the basket is actually a pile of baskets, so students can use groupings (such as repeated addition) to help them find the answer. These digital task cards allow students to safely use manipulatives to practice their basic math facts, 1-12 for multiplication and division, 1-20 for addition and subtraction.

Helpful Add On

When making these kinds of digital activities I always design my non-moving elements in PowerPoint and save them as image files. I then upload those images as the background of my Google Slides. In order to speed up the background insertion (these activities had between 146 and 202 slides each!), I’ve long used the add-on Slides Toolbox. I once again used Slides Toolbox, but I also needed to do something else: randomize the slides. In order to be sure I included all of the facts students needed to practice, I created the task cards in order. When using paper task cards this isn’t a problem, because I simply shuffle them before giving them to students. Digital task cards a little more tricky, and I needed a way to shuffle them so students would have to do more than count in sequence for the answers (multiplication is still in order because you may want to practice only certain facts). Thankfully, much as there’s an app for every situation, there’s an add-on for every situation today. I used every teacher’s best friend, Google, and found an add-on called Slides Randomizer. This add-on will randomize the order of your slides once, or every time you open the file. You can choose to have the first slide remain stationary or not, and you can initiate a randomization of slides anytime you choose. In order to reset slides, you must use the back or undo button, and they will not return to their original order when you close the file. I decided it was worth a try, and it worked great. It was incredibly easy to use, and took hardly any time at all to perform the randomization of the slides. The only thing I wished was that I could choose the number of slides at the beginning to keep in place, as my activity has a title slide, a directions slide, and a helpful tip about groupings slide. I realized later that I should have just built my deck without those slides, randomized it, turned the auto-randomization off, and then added those three slides last, but at least I know for next time.

I know most people don’t automatically put math instruction together with ESL, but I have actually done quite a bit of it over the years. There’s a lot of vocabulary in math, and it’s an important subject for every student. I hope your students enjoy these fact practice games as much as mine. Happy teaching, everyone!

Self-Grading Digital Task Cards

Much or Many: Sheets Version
Relative Clauses: Sheets Version
The Tie That Binds: Conjunctions: Sheets Version
Syllables: Sheets Version

Task cards are great, aren’t they? Students like them, teachers like them, administrators like them, there’s really no reason to not like them! Figuring out how best to create digital task cards has been a journey for me; but I persevered and was rather content with the digital task cards I had come up with, except one thing–I had no way of know what my students had answered, or I had to click through multiple slides for each student and check everything by hand. I missed the recording sheets and the relatively easy grading methods I had for paper-based task cards. Until last week that is! It took some thinking and experimenting, but I knew that if I could use conditional formatting to create games and mystery pictures, I should be able to use conditional formatting to create self-grading task cards. I was correct, it is possible, and I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it. But first, here’s a look at these cards in action so you can see why I’m so excited about them!

Cool, right? And they were extremely easy to make. This is possible in both Excel and Sheets, but I find it a little easier to complete in Sheets because there are fewer options. The good news is that Sheets can be downloaded as Excel (click File, Download, Microsoft Excel) and all of the formatting stays in place. These directions will be for Sheets.

The first thing I did was rename the first tab as “Directions.” To rename a tab:

  1. go to the bottom of the screen
  2. right click where it says Sheet1
  3. click Rename
  4. type the new name for the sheet

I then clicked in the first cell and started typing my directions. I chose to type one sentence per line in hopes the students will read the directions more carefully if they weren’t in paragraph format. To insert the arrow directing them to the tabs for the questions I did the following:

  1. Click Insert
  2. Click Drawing
  3. I chose the arrow I wanted from the shapes menu and drew it on the screen.
  4. Click “Save and Close” in the upper right corner.
  5. Reposition and resize the arrow to fit your needs.

After the directions are finished it’s time to add the question, answer, and grade tabs. I recommend that you add the answer tab first and you update it as you go. To add a tab click the + sign in the bottom left corner. Change the name to “Answers” using the above steps. I chose to label column A as “Question,” so I could easily see which question the answer corresponded to, and I went ahead and numbered down column A (type 1 into cell A2, grab the bottom right corner of the blue outline around the cell and pull down, the numbering will be done automatically). Column B I labeled “Answer.” Going back to my directions tab, I again clicked the + button and renamed this newest tab “1” for question one.

On the question tabs you are going to include whatever you would normally place on a task card. I chose to include a picture (click Insert, Image, Over Cells) and the sentence that I wanted them to complete. One thing you do need to be sure and include though is an easily identifiable place for them to type their answer. You need to know exactly where the answer will be typed in order for the conditional formatting to work. I took care of this problem by choosing a cell, resizing it (not necessary but I wanted it to be large and not easily missed), and coloring it tan. Now that your first task card is set up, it’s time to make the magic happen on the answer sheet. 

  1. Click on the answer tab.
  2. Click in the cell for the answer to question/task 1 (cell B2 on my sheet).
  3. type =
  4. Click on the answer cell from task card 1 (click on tab 1, click on the answer cell).
  5. Click on the Answers tab.
  6. Hit enter.

Now anything typed into the answer cell on task card 1 (tab 1) will automatically appear in the corresponding answer cell on the Answers tab. Next I need to do the conditional formatting for the self-checking part of the task cards. (This step is not necessary if you are not planning to allow students access to the answer tab but it only takes a moment and I think it’s worth it.)

  1. On the Answers tab click on the cell for the answer to question 1 (cell B2 on my sheet).
  2. Click Format
  3. Click Conditional Formatting
  4. Under Format rules, Format cells if… choose “text is exactly”
  5. Type the correct answer in the box labeled “Value or formula”
  6. Choose the color you want the cell to turn (I leave mine green).
  7. Click Done.

To test this out, click on tab 1, type the correct answer in the answer box, hit enter. Now click on the answer tab and next to number 1 should be your answer and the cell should be green. This in itself is cool, but now to make it self-grading!

  1. On the Answers tab click the cell next to the answer for question 1 (cell C2 on my sheet).
  2. type =IF (that’s equals sign IF)
  3. click the cell with the answer (Answers tab cell B2 on my sheet)
  4. type the correct answer in quotation marks (i.e.: “much”)
  5. type ,1,0 (that’s comma one comma zero)
  6. hit enter

The cell next to your answer for question one should now have a number 1 in it. You have now completed the set up for task card 1. 

To create the next task card you could start from scratch, but I recommend copying and pasting to save yourself a little setup work. 

  1. Right click on tab 1 at the bottom of your screen.
  2. Click Duplicate
  3. Rename the new tab 2 (or whatever number you are on).

Now you just need to change elements such as the picture (if you choose) and the question. The answer box is already formatted for you, as well as any static elements you may have included (i.e. a border). Once the card is designed to your satisfaction, follow the steps above to update the Answers tab. Continue repeating these steps for each of your task cards.

Only a few things remain to be done. The first step is to finish the auto-grading feature. 

  1. On the Answers tab click the cell below the points for the last question (the cell immediately bellow the last 1/0 cell, on mine it was cell C27).
  2. type =SUM(     (that’s equals sign SUM and open parenthesis) 
  3. click on the 1/0 cell for question 1 (cell C2 on my sheet) and drag down to highlight all of the 1/0 cells
  4. release your mouse button
  5. hit enter

You now have a total number of questions correct. To convert this to a percentage, be sure you are in the cell below your total score (cell C28 on my sheet).

  1. type =
  2. click the cell with your total score (cell C27 on my sheet)
  3. type /   (that’s a forward slash or divide sign)
  4. type the total number of questions
  5. hit enter
  6. click again on the cell with your percent (cell C28 on my sheet)
  7. click Format
  8. click Number
  9. click Percent
  10. hit enter

You now have a percentage grade for the activity. 

This next part is totally optional but I wanted it because I sometimes use task cards as an assessment. The Answers tab will now clearly show which questions are correct and which are incorrect. This is great if I want students to be able to go back and correct their work, but what if I don’t want to make it obvious which questions are right or wrong, and I still want them to know their final score? My solution was a grade tab.

From the Answers tab create a new tab by clicking the + sign in the bottom left corner. Rename the new tab “Grade.” I then inserted a picture (just for fun) and an encouraging message. I then chose a cell and typed “Number Correct” (cell H4 in my example). In the next cell over (cell I4 on my sheet) I told it to automatically populate from the Answers sheet.

  1. On the Grade tab click where you want the number correct to appear (cell I4 on mine).
  2. Type =
  3. Click on the Answers tab.
  4. Click on the box with the total correct (cell C27 on my sheet)
  5. Click on the Grade tab.
  6. Hit enter.

I then repeated this process a row or two lower for the total percentage, this time pulling in the percentage from the Answers tab (cell C28 on my sheet). I now have a sheet that will show my students their grade, but not which questions are correct or incorrect. On this tab they are still able to see that they answered N questions incorrectly, but they don’t know which ones.

The final step is to hide the Answers tab so they don’t have access to which specific questions are correct or incorrect (this step is optional but good if you want to use the cards as an assessment).  To hide a tab:

  1. Right click on the tab you wish to hide.
  2. Click Hide sheet.

To make the tab visible again (if you want to look at specific answers without having to click on every tab):

  1. Click View.
  2. Click Hidden Sheets
  3. Click Answers

Can students do this too? Yes. Are they likely to think about it and do it? Probably not. Unless they know the tab is there they have no reason to go looking for it. Add to that the fact that they’d have to be able to read the conditional formatting formulas we inputted to get the correct answers, and cheating is highly unlikely.

That’s it, you now have a complete set of self-grading digital task cards. To use them you will need to make a copy of the document for each student and give them editing rights (be sure you’ve deleted any answers you typed on the question tabs as you tested things out). The best way of doing this will depend on your learning management system. To do this on Blackboard I create a Force a Copy link and post the link in my assignment. In Google Classroom you can just put the link into classroom and choose “make a copy for each student.” The important thing is that each student have his or her own copy of the cards.

This truly is my new favorite way to do task cards. I like it so much that I’m planning to go back and recreate some of my other task cards (the ones where students move circles to indicate their choice and I have to check each slide individually) using this method. I hope you find it helpful as well, happy teaching!

Digital Task Cards

Can or May? Slides Version
Its or It’s? A Vacation Slides Version
See these task cards in action!
Pirate Homophones: Are, Our, Hour: Slides Version
See these task cards in action!

How many times have you given your students a Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation and they just clicked through it rather than using the buttons provided? Frustrating isn’t it? The point of the activity is for them to click in the places we want them to click and yet, either by accident or on purpose, they always seem to miss things by randomly clicking elsewhere on the slide. Today I’m going to show you how to fix this problem. I’ll warn you now: this can be time consuming! But, it is worth it in the end. This post gives step-by-step instructions, but if you prefer a video, skip to the end. 

First, as always, design your slides elsewhere, I usually use PowerPoint, even if I’m going to be giving my students a PowerPoint in the end. Doing the design work this way prevents any accidental (or accidentally-on-purpose) deletion or editing of the slide contents. When designing your slides be sure to create words or “buttons” that students will click on to “answer” the questions. Each feedback slide (tells students if they were correct or not) needs to include a “button” that links to the next question. Once you have all of the parts designed, save your PowerPoint slides as images.

  1. Click on “Save As”
  2. Change the file type to either .jpg or .png, either will work.
  3. Tell it to save all slides and wait a moment. A new folder will be created with images of each slide. 

You are now ready to create your file that will ultimately be shared with students. You want to import all of those images you just created and set them as the background.

  • In PowerPoint the easy way to do this is, in a new PowerPoint file, choose Insert, Photo Album, New Photo Album. You can then use the Insert From File/Disk option to navigate to your stored pictures, select them all, and insert them. 
  • In Google Slides there is an add-on that makes this easier. Click on Add-ons, Get Add-ons, and search for Slides Toolbox.
    • Once it’s been installed click on Add-ons
    • Slides Toolbox
    • Open
    • Import Tools
    • Create slides from images
    • Check the Set as Page background box
    • Next
    • Upload
    • Select files from your device, then navigate to where you stored the files and select them all.

If you have a lot of slides this will take a couple of minutes, but it is still much faster than doing them one-by-one.

Now that you have all of your slides set up as images/backgrounds, it is time to start making the magic happen. The first thing we want to do is make it so students cannot advance slides by clicking anywhere. To do this we are going to link each slide to itself.‚Äč

  1. On the first slide use the shape tools to draw a rectangle that covers the entire slide.
  2. Copy that rectangle and move down through the slides, pasting the rectangle on each remaining slide.
  3. Go back to your first slide and click on the rectangle. Change the rectangle so it is transparent in color and has a transparent border. Then click the hyperlink button (looks like a linked chain) and choose the same slide (so if you are on slide 2, link to slide 2).
  4. Go down through the slides, clicking on each rectangle, making the rectangle clear with a clear border, and linking each slide to itself (slide 3 gets linked to slide 3, slide 4 links to slide 4…).

Now, if you put the presentation into present mode, you can click anywhere on the slides but they will not advance.

Making the slides advance is the next step:

  1. Back in edit mode, go to your first slide.
  2. Using the shape tool again, draw a shape (I always use rectangles, but any shape will do) over where you want students to click to “answer” the question. Be sure to make a separate shape for each answer possibility. 
  3. Make your shape clear with a clear border.
  4. Click on the hyperlink button again. This time you are going to hyperlink to the slide that tells students if they are correct or not. You can choose to have separate correct/incorrect slides, or have one slide that shows the correct answer and gives an explanation. Just be sure to link to the slide that has the feedback you want to give for that particular answer.
  5. You will need to repeat this process for each answer on each slide.
  6. Once you finish the question slides you will need to repeat the process to add a box to each feedback slide linking students to the next question.

A lot of work, I know, but it really is worth it. The good news is that once you finish creating all of your answer and next question buttons, you are done. Put your slides in present mode and try them out…pretty cool, huh? If you prefer video tutorials, here is a short one:

Happy task card creating, everyone! Next week I’ll show you how to create self-grading task cards in Sheets/Excel that can be used as an assessment, it’s my new favorite digital task card delivery method!