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5 Ways to Teach with Summarizing Task Cards

November 18, 2016 in Reading, Teaching

It’s hard enough to find great summarizing task cards, but what if I told you that there are many ways to use summarizing task cards again and again?


If you have high-quality summarizing task cards, you’ll know it because they can be used in a variety of ways, multiple times.

That’s what this post is all about. We recommend reading all the strategies below, but if you’re in a hurry, the video shows you the 5 ways to use summarizing task cards in 50 seconds!

Instructional Strategies for Summarizing Task Cards

You know what to teach: summarizing. You have the resource to teach it: task cards. But how do you teach with them?

Do you simply put the task cards in a center and let the students work?

Do you give each group 1 card, 2 minutes to work, and switch tables (scoot)?

Do you just lay them out for groups to work on like a summarizing worksheet?

There are many ways to use summarizing task cards, but you want the best instructional approach, so you can get the maximum learning from your class time.

That’s why we’ve prepared these five instructional strategies for you.

Five Ways to Use Summarizing Task Cards

Replace confusion with confidence. Get the best results from your summarizing task cards.

Here are the following ways to use summarizing task cards. You can use the links below to jump to the strategy you want to know about it.

  1. Shared reading
  2. Deepen understanding through question stems
  3. Play games
  4. Quick guided reading with a skills focus
  5. As an engaging writing task
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Five Summarizing Task Card Strategies in Detail

Let’s look at how you can use these easy, no prep strategies in your classroom today.

1. Shared Reading with Task Cards

It’s a perfect blend between reading to the class and the students reading with your guidance. Here’s the step-by-step on how to do this strategy:

  1. Project the task card for the whole class to see. Begin reading aloud.
  2. Read aloud 4-6 words, pause, and let students read the word aloud that you paused on. It’s kind of a blend between shared reading and choral reading.
  3. They continue to follow along silently until you pause, and then they read the word aloud.
    BONUS STEP: Use a laser pointer to keep their eyes on track with your pacing.

This approach works because you can use texts that are too difficult for students to read alone. Students build fluency, expand vocabulary, and increase comprehension as you question them on problems, solutions, character intentions, and summaries.

Teaching Tip: Use shared Reading for fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.Click To Tweet

2. Deepen Comprehension Skills

Summarizing task cards are perfect to use with any comprehension skill. You just need some question stems posted in the room.

Don’t worry, I’ve provided reading comprehension question stems below!

Summarizing task cards work because the length of the text is perfect. They are longer than other types of task cards (or at least they should be if they’re quality task cards), so they lend themselves to a variety of mini-lesson skills.

Also, the texts aren’t so long that they take the entire lesson time.

Having a set of your own comprehension question stems can help you use summarizing task cards for any skill.

Here are a few question stems to start.

Inference: The text says __ and __, what can you predict from that?

Inference: The [character] did __, but the the author didn’t say why. What do you think were the reasons?

Ideas and Details: What are three details that support the idea that __?

Ideas and Details: The text says __ , __, and __. What is this mostly about?

Plot: Can you paraphrase the problem? Can you paraphrase the solution?

Cause/Effect: Why did __ do __?

Context Clues: What words or phrases help you know that __ means?

Use task cards during the lesson. Then follow-up the next day as a warm-up or bell work. Do these simple steps:

  1. Give students the same card as yesterday’s comprehension lesson.
  2. Instead of using the question stems like those above, have the students pick the best summary from multiple choices on the task cards!

Read 2 Newer Summarizing Posts:

Teaching Tip: Reuse task cards with question stems, then spiral the task cards back into your lesson the next day as a warm-up. Click To Tweet

3. Playing Games with Task Cards

You know when students’ energy levels are dragging. Heck, you know when your own energy level is low.

Several days of monotony can slow anyone’s energy levels. The emotional engagement just isn’t there, and it shows!

Use a task card game to change it up. Increased excitement to participate may be just what the students need to increase emotional engagement in learning.

Five games come to mind (and here are more details on games with task cards):

  1. Trashketball
  2. Scoot!
  3. Divide and Conquer
  4. Four Corners
  5. The Amazing Race
Teaching Tip: Use ordinary worksheets and create extraordinary experiences.Click To Tweet

4. For Skills-Focused Guided Reading

Summarizing task cards are perfect for guided reading when you are wanting to teach a specific skill. They’re long enough to use the reading process, but they’re not too long to lose focus on teaching a skill.

Use any one of the question stems above and pair your questions with modeling and explaining. Talk less and ask students to explain to you how to do the skill you’re teaching.

End the guided reading lesson giving the summarizing questions that come with the task cards. Watch student comprehension increase quickly!

Teaching Tip: In a small group, talk less and ask students to explain more.Click To Tweet

5. Recycle Task Cards for Writing

Use the task cards for writing after you exhaust their potential for reading instruction. Follow these simple steps for an engaging and rigorous writing assignment.

  1. Reread the cards as a shared reading.
  2. Students pick the correct summary.
  3. Change one element of the story structure (setting, character, plot).
  4. Ask the students, “If the ___ changes to ___, how will this affect the plot?”
  5. Give students time to talk.
  6. Then have students write a summary of the story with this important change.
Teaching Tip: Use a model text, change one element of the story structures, and let students write creatively on it!Click To Tweet

The Research Base

Years of data provide evidence to support the use of shared reading, guided reading, and comprehension focused instruction (Stahl, 2012). The most important aspects of improving comprehension include the use of questioning strategies and ensuring active engagement. The motivation to participate is a major obstacle for many struggling readers. Take away this obstacle using the five teaching strategies above.

Question + Shared Reading = Increased ComprehensionClick To Tweet

One Set of Summarizing Task Cards, So Many Uses

If you have that perfect set of summarizing task cards, you’ll quickly discover there are just so many great ways to use them! The great thing is they can flexible and can be reused in each of these ways mentioned above.

If you’re looking for a great set of summarizing task cards, you can view TeamTom’s best-selling cards at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Summarizing Task Cards are awesome with these 5 teaching ideas!

About the author 

TeamTom Education

TeamTom Education is dedicated to creating engaging teaching resources and strategies that make learning awesome!

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