Task Cards in Literacy? I can’t believe I’m saying “yes”!

Ok…it’s time to be honest.
I cannot find time to do everything.  I want my students to read at least 30-40 minutes per day on self-selected books.  I know I need to do book groups–especially for my strugglers.  I need to teach quality universal instruction minilessons…and then follow those up with conferences.  I need to assess my learners and measure growth and write individualized learning plans so they can all maximize their learning time.  I need to document all of this so I can prove what I am doing.
I am failing.
The one thing I have noticed over recent years, the more a child struggles, the less they read.  They read less at home. They read less at school. They are given “doses” of instruction…small groups…one on one…but they rarely are just given time to select and pick just right books.  They are coached.  They are prompted.  They become dependent.  They see reading as a chore…a meaningless set of disparate skills…certainly not as FUN or meaningful.
So…as I look at my class and see a small herd of students reading below grade level, somehow I need to come up with a plan.  I went back and studied the running records that we just finished and started making a list of things I noticed.  I saw students who have accuracy issues…context clues issues…comprehension issues..the gamut.  So–how do I meet with all of them (many of whom need MULTIPLE groups) all while still doing whole class instruction and giving them time to read?
[Insert answer here]
OK…so I still don’t have an answer.  I did decide to start digging in, however, and I have picked my biggest comprehension concern kiddos and we are going to start working on reading one short text together per day next week.  Our focus?  For each section of text they need to be able to tell me:
What characters are
in this part? 
are they?
What are they doing? 
What are they thinking and feeling? 
What do you think will happen

When I did their running records, they couldn’t tell me those basic things…so I thought I would start there. I am backing the text level WAY back…
I then decided to tackle some small group or one-on-one context clue work because I noticed a LOT of my students really didn’t have any other strategy other than to try to sound out a word.  That doesn’t do them much good if they never figure it out…or it takes them so long to figure it out that they forget what they were reading!  I whipped up a set of context clues task cards because I thought I could easily meet with each child for 3-4 minutes per day and not take away their independent reading time.  The first day, I tried getting through the first 3 cards with each student.  It was fine…but felt a little rigid and “kill and drill”.  The next day, I flipped that stack of cards over and let the students pick one at a time.  I couldn’t believe how excited they were for that little tweak!  Here’s how it looked…

 I couldn’t believe it…but my students were begging to “go next”!  I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled about using task cards.  I’m a HUGE believer in authentic literacy where we use the texts students are reading to practice these skills.  That being said, I felt there was some benefit to having some control over the content and giving some good “guided practice” as an intervention.  When I feel they are really starting to do this well without coaching, we’ll go try it with their self-selected reading.  I’d love to hear your thoughts…and I am already working on my next set of cards based on what I learned about my students!  Stay tuned!
Want to see the ones I’m using now for context clues?  Here they are!