SOS: Pick A Card

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Pick A Card

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SOS Big IdeaThis strategy is designed to engage students in group discussion, by giving them specific roles to play. The teacher uses a prepared deck of cards with different tasks on each card, to determine what each student will do during and after interacting with a media segment. Keeping students actively engaged will help with both immediate and long-term comprehension of content material, leading to greater success with academic tasks such as writing assignments, reports, and assessments.

SOS StepsMaterials: teacher-created deck of cards of individual tasks 
  1. Walk around the classroom with the deck of task cards. Approach students one-at-a-time and say, like a magician, “Pick a card, any card.” Have students choose cards and read what their tasks will be.
  2. Create a deck of task cards. The tasks should be broad enough that they can be reused with any type of media or topic of study. It is a good idea to make multiple copies of the same tasks so that each task is completed by multiple students. Some examples of tasks include:
    • Write 3 facts about ________.
    • Define 3 vocabulary words included in the media
    • Write 3 questions you still have.
    • Why do you think ________ is a good idea or bad idea?
    • What do you think will happen next?
  3. Have students interact with the media and work on their specific tasks.
  4. Students should complete their tasks independently and then gather in task groups to share and review results with other students who share the same task. 
  5. After small groups have collaborated, have the entire class gather and take turns sharing the results of their tasks.


SOS Sum It UpThis strategy is effective because it keeps students engaged in a variety of tasks.  They will get a variety of tasks over the course of time, so they will become proficient in a variety of skills.  They will also be encouraged to do quality work, as they know they are going to be accountable to the rest of the class for their tasks.
The task cards can be easily modified, depending upon the age of students and the topic they are studying. The tasks can be simple to begin with, and then increase in complexity, as students become more adept at thinking critically.
SOS More Ideas
Use the task cards to differentiate instruction by color coding specific tasks or using different decks geared at meeting specific learning goals.

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  1. Kimberlee Taylor said:

    I love the deck of cards idea. I never thought about actually writing the task on a card and having each student take a card with a single designated task. Talk about complete engagement and each student being responsible for their piece of the pie and then required to report back to the similar task group. I actually use a similiar strategy but I require each group to work on the same task listed on the card. So everyone in “blue” group will complete the task on the card. I noticed that (like in most group projects) that a few students complete the work while the other passively sit there. In your version the “passive” learner does not have that option! And why didn’t I think about creating broad task cards so I don’t have to make new cards often…brilliant! Your idea really gives accountability to every student in class and makes each student feel like their contribution matters. Thank you for sharing this idea! I can’t wait to modify mine and watch the magic happen!!

  2. Elissa Rodriguez said:

    This is such a beneficial approach to cooperative learning and student engagement. The “pick a card” strategy reminds me of a strategy that I use by Dr. Spencer Kagan called, “Fan and Pick.” Designating a task card for each student promotes student accountability. I love this idea because it increases equal participation. At the same time, students are contributing to their own specific task it also allows for collaboration. I can totally see the four C’s of common core here! Not only are students having to use critical thinking skills, they are able to communicate their findings and collaborate with others all while being creative with their answers and justifications for their questions. In my class, I have implemented something like your task cards, however not as engaging. Students would view a piece of media and complete an activity called, “3-2-1” ( 3 things that I have learned, 2 interesting facts, and 1 wondering question that I still have). The “Pick a Card” strategy sounds so much more engaging and I find the color coding extremely beneficial for differentiated instruction. Thanks for the idea!

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