This book is intended to be used in the secondary English/ Language Arts classroom. What I love about the contents of this book is that the strategies can be used with struggling readers as well as advanced placement students (and I have used the assignments with both). The books contains 101 assignments and activities for both teacher and student use. I have also correlated each student index card activity to the appropriate standard in an appendix at the back of the book for quick reference in lesson planning and preparing for observations.
Using notecards in my classroom has revolutionized the way I teach. For years I have taught students who struggle with reading and writing and need bite sized, manageable, non-intimidating chunks to chew on (metaphorically) while I am teaching. I find that handing these lower-quartile students a blank sheet of paper and asking them to produce something (anything) can be a challenge. But, when I hand students an index card and ask them to fill it, they have no problems. Asking students to go beyond the basics can be a pretty difficult task for them. Limiting their response to the size of an index card gives them the confidence to take risks. They assume that it is a “small” assignment and they make analytical leaps that they might not normally make. They might be wrong, but at least they are thinking more critically. Even the most reluctant students are willing to put forth a quick burst of frantic energy to fill an index card in five minutes rather than face an entire sheet of blank paper for ten minutes when asked to fill only half of it. It is psychological. The small size of the index card tricks students into thinking that the skill being assessed, or the assignment itself, is not large, not hard, and can easily be conquered. The index cards are small and non-intimidating for a student who is reluctant to read, write, or participate.
I also find that my advanced placement students are embracing the index cards. These students are fearful of getting anything lower than an A on any assignment, so they tend to stay in the “safe” zone when they complete assignments. They do not take risks or make intellectual leaps because they are so afraid of being told they are wrong. These students are benefiting from the less-intimidating nature of the index card as well.