I’m not sure how I never knew about these before, but Situational Task Cards have changed my life as a Spanish Teacher!!! Situational task cards are a set of scenarios that are all related to the same theme. Each scenario is slightly different, and they can be used MULTIPLE times in the same unit for speaking, writing and assessment. I LOVE when I can create something once and use it over and over- it saves so much time in planning and copying or posting! Here are some of the ways I am using task cards in my Spanish classes!
Using Task Cards for Writing
For many of my students, writing is a little bit less intimidating than speaking. I usually start off using my task cards to practice writing because students have more time to think, and they LOVE to erase! 😉
So I pass out one task card to each student. This is random because it doesn’t matter which scenario they get. They are all a variation of the theme of our current unit. I pass out a piece of paper. (You could also have them type.) I explain that we are doing a free write. There is no grading for accuracy! (Though sometimes I enter a grade for participation/effort.) Before they start writing, I set up some scaffolds. What vocab list or grammar notes might they want to have out? Can they think of any words they would like to use but they don’t know how to say them? (I write those on the board.) Sometimes I even give them a suggestion for sentence #1. (Getting started is sometimes the hardest part for kids.) I set a fun timer that I find on the internet for 10 minutes and the kids write!
When the timer goes off, I collect the paper and the task cards. I save the paper, and then, in the next class, or next week, I repeat this activity. I pass out the task cards again, but make sure no one got the same one. They can use the same paper (or document) to do another 10 minute free write. Students really like this activity because they know as long as they are trying there is no pressure about being totally write or including specific requirements. It’s like developing a muscle- with regular use things get better and easier!
Using Task Cards for Speaking
Another way to use the SAME deck of Task Cards is for speaking practice.
Display one task card at a time on the Smartboard. (If you don’t have a smartboard, you could have your students join a Google Meet or Zoom and present your screen, or just send them a limited Google slide show of the cards you plan to use.) Ask students to partner up. Ask them to decide who will be Person A and who will be Person B. Person A will speak first and tell a story related to the task card’s scenario. When I put up a new card, Person B does the talking!
Over the years I have refined how I do speaking practices like this. Here is the best way I have found to get kids talking, a LOT, and for them to make progress towards a speaking goal.
Students are in pairs. I have them move their desks so they are quite close. With so many people talking at once, I want them to be able to hear each other! (Masks must be on properly!!)
Instead of deciding, I tell everyone that Person A is the person on the right and Person B is on the left. Person A will talk 4 or 5 times in a row! Person B will be listening 4 or 5 times in a row.
Usually, I put a timer on. I usually increase the amount of time they have to talk from 1 minute to 2.5 minutes. So for slide 1, Person A might have 1 minute to talk, but for slide 2 they have to talk for 1.5 minutes. (You can adjust this as you see fit!)
Sometimes I give a specific requirement for each slide. For example: Use 3 different verbs, or use 2 sophistication words.
Each person has a paper that has 4 or 5 mini rubrics on it. They pass it to their “listener” who can make tallies for certain requirements and tell them a compliment and something to work on.
Each time we finish one scenario, every person A moves back one seat (or to the top of the next row.) This ensures that no student has to talk to someone that makes them uncomfortable every time. Students get advice from a variety of sources about their speaking. Listeners get to hear how a variety of speakers use their language creatively!
After Person A has had their 4 or 5 turns, we repeat this entire process, but Person B is the speaker and Person A is the listener!
This activity is so effective at building confidence with speaking, and it’s a NO PREP activity that takes the entire class!
**A shout out to my friend at Esteem Learning for giving me the basis for this idea! She uses pictures instead of task cards.
Using Task Cards for Assessments
Now that you’ve taken the time to make task cards, and you’ve had the chance to use them several times in class, why not use them for an assessment? Sometimes we teachers trick ourselves into thinking that we need to reinvent the wheel all the time.
But wouldn’t these task cards be a perfect prompt for a writing or speaking summative assessment? They’re open-ended, related to the theme of your unit, and with a rubric slapped on- BINGO! And- there are so many options!
At my school we have a re-take policy, and one of the biggest challenges is coming up with ANOTHER version of a test. Here- you have multiple versions ready to go! That means you can:
-give each student a different prompt (no more Class 1 telling Class 4 exactly what the prompt is! They all have a different one!)
-Or, you could select a few cards and give each of your classes the same prompt. This eliminates one class telling another what the prompt is, but you have the freedom to choose which situations would best show off what your students know how to do with their Spanish.
-Save one or 2 of the situations for a re-take version, if your school does that!
As I said at the beginning- task cards have changed my teaching and saved me A LOT of time. But more importantly, they have really changed what my students can do and how they view themselves as Spanish learners. Using situational task cards in Spanish class has allowed them to build their confidence with using their Spanish creatively. I now make a set for every unit/theme!
**Teacher Hack** I take the time to print them in color (they’re more fun and attractive for students) and I also take the time to laminate them. Now, I will use these EVERY year, and the prep was done ONCE!!!!
In case you are interested, here are the ones I have created so far. Each set has 20 different situations, a digital color and a digital black and white version, a color version for projecting (larger) and also a self-assessment rubric and a peer feedback rubric.