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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


“Stacks” are a series of cards created by the teacher or by the teacher’s students to help them remember important facts. Stacks are especially helpful in putting events in chronological order, matching a person to his specific accomplishments, matching a word to its definition, steps in a process, classifying and categorizing, and so on. When creating the cards, the heading should be in one color and the facts, definitions, etc. should be in another color. If you have a color printer or Xerox machine you can use different color ink but if you only have access to black and white then you can use different colors of card stock to create the same effect. I always use cardstock when printing stacks because it holds up better and there is little need to laminate it. Over the years I just replaced torn and missing cards and was able to get several years out each stacks activity without laminating. Once the stacks cards are created, each set of cards is placed in a baggy for storage. Stacks can be done individually or in groups. I prefer individual stacks at some point for assessment reasons.

Once students or groups are given cards they are give specific instructions on how to use the cards. For example:

· Take cards out of baggy.
· Sort cards into colors.
· Give specific directions based upon the kind of stacks you are doing. For example:

* Chronological Order/Steps in a process – place cards in order from the earliest to the latest event.
*Definitions – place words/person to be matched with definitions/accomplishments down the side of the student’s desk in a specific order designated by the teacher. I use alphabetical order once student’s have some knowledge of this skill and to reinforce a second skill at the same time. Creating a specific order makes the activity easier for the teacher to grade.
* Categories – place specific categories across the top of the student’s desk in a specific order designated by the teacher. Creating a specific order makes the activity easier for the teacher to grade.

· Tell students to take the matching set of cards and complete the stacks.
· Student raises hand when completed for teacher grading.
· If correct, the stacks is shuffled and done again. Students must repeat the process three times correctly to achieve expert status. Once receiving expert status the student is allowed to help the teachers grade other student work. This is a great opportunity to have a brighter student help another student who may be having problems with the material. I always tell the student do not do it for the student just keep correcting it until the students get its right.

I love stacks as it seems to create a student mind map for future use. I repeatedly see students who get stuck with a question that has been part of a stack activity, look at their desk for a few seconds and then come up with the correct answer. Students seem to easily associate where they place something and can go back and get it when they need it. Stacks can be some work to create but is well worth the effort.

These slideshow below("Math Stacks" and "Explorer Stacks") shows what your stack cards would look like.

To download these pictures click on the slide show, in the resulting window right click on the image and select "save picture as".

To get files related to this article please email me at smmcnamee@comcast.net

If your computer does not have a program that allows you to click and send email then cut and paste my address into your own email program.

Find more Teaching Strategies like this on the Teaching Strategies Page


AKPerera,  May 27, 2009 at 10:18 PM  


This is a great tool to help teachers at every level. I can not wait to share this with my staff....hope you don't mind.

Susan McNamee May 29, 2009 at 10:12 AM  

Thanks you for your comment and please do share. We all need to help each other as much as possible so encourage your staff to use this site and to leave comments about how that have used the strategies and posts. Any ideas for improvement are of course welcome.

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