Boom Cards are digital task cards that I discovered when I had to quickly transition from in-person classes to remote learning. Boom Cards have several advantages over traditional paper task cards or interactive Google Slides: they collect data on the student’s work and compile it into different reports for faster analysis. This data can then be used to guide discussions with students and parents.
About the Guest Author
I have over 20 years of experience teaching science in grades 6-12 and actively involved in developing and teaching professional development opportunities related to science instructional best practices. For over six years I have been the science vertical team leader for all 11 science teachers in my school, facilitating our professional learning community, and coordinating with my building and district administration to improve science instruction. As part of these duties, I do research on science best practices, such as the 5e instructional model and the CER writing framework for scientific explanations and also work with my teams of science teachers and special education teachers to develop common assessments, analyze data, and plan for RTI in science. I have a TPT store Ratelis Science with a wide range of resources for NGSS Physical Science and a Boom Learning Store that has Middle School Physical Science Decks along with custom decks that I have made on other topics for colleagues in SPED and SLP.
While you might think that digital task cards are only for elementary, these cards have a lot more power to be transformed into tools for self-directed learning and review along with giving you timely feedback about student progress for lesson planning.
When looking at traditional task cards, Boom Cards are superior because they can go beyond a single multiple choice answer and have auto-graded fill-in-the-blanks questions, drag and drops for sorts or models, and even require the selection of more than one multiple-choice answer. In this sample card above, I created models for students to use that showed changes in electric charges, and they had to drag the correct number of negative charges to make the balloon have a net charge of zero. I also like the drag and drop feature of Boom Cards for making item sorts.
In this example, students must solve for the density of the different samples, type those answers into the fill in the blank areas and then correctly use that information to layer the three sample icons properly in the beaker. This is a single card, but it allows me to have students practice more complex tasks.
The teacher dashboard has multiple areas for you to click on to drill down the data for your use. For this blog I have set up a sample class with three sample students in it as shown in this screenshot. (Teacher Dashboard)
I have selected the currently assigned folder on the left and then selected the deck I wanted to see more data about. This main screen of the teacher dashboard gives me an overview of student progress through the decks, the number of times they have attempted the deck, the average time spent on the deck, and the current accuracy for the deck.
When you look at the teacher dashboard, the “Last”, “Best”, and “Average” are all based on one complete delivery of all the cards in a deck. The individual plays of the deck are called a batch because the batch is a selected subset of cards delivered. When a student plays additional batches, new cards from the set are delivered. If there are not enough new cards remaining in the set to form a full batch, some older cards are delivered again.
“Last” is calculated from the most recent play of each card. “Average” is computed from the three most recent answers given for that card. “Best” compares the last three fully played sets and returns the best score of those sets. Note, because only the last 3 responses to a card are included in these computations, the “Best” score can go down if the student made errors on the more recent plays of the cards.
If I want more information about this deck I click on the title of the deck and that link brings me to this page with report by student or report by cards. The report by student can be sorted by clicking on the column titles so I can look at who is still active with a set of cards to complete, or by how many correct or incorrect answers they had in the deck.
The report by cards tab is one that I use more often in this section because it breaks down the answers by card and gives me a report of which incorrect answers students selected.This is a screenshot of part of the report by cards screen. The cards are sorted by the number of incorrect answers with the ones that students answer incorrectly most often closer to the top of the list. This helps prioritize my planning for whole-group and small-groups.
For the first card listed I can quickly see that none of my students are getting this answer correct so I know that I need to do a reteaching on that question with the whole class. For the second card, I can see that if students are picking the wrong answer, that it is always the same wrong answer so I will look at the card again to see what about the incorrect answer might be confusing my students. Often, I use a common misconception as a distractor for multiple choice cards, so this is important information for me to have.
This is a screenshot from lower down on the list. These are questions that have mostly correct answers and good for me to know because these are questions my students are always getting right. If I wanted, I could go into the deck and hide those cards, so the next time my students do the deck they will not see these in the set. That means that I can adjust the deck for my class, so they are only working on cards with questions that they need to still review. At this time, I can only set the hide cad feature for the whole class, not for individual students, unless I am the author of the deck and make a clone of the deck to use with different groups of students.
For individual students, I can look at a student progress dashboard like this screenshot.
It shows that this student, Delenn, has done the deck four times but the most recent three sets are shown. The top graph shows the cards and uses red for incorrect answers and green for correct answers. This lets me see at a glance any cards that are still an issue for this student. The bottom graph shows the average time for the correct answer. This can help me track fluency in answering questions if needed. In my classes, I have used this screen as part of student conferences for them to see their progress in mastering the material.
After I created a deck of questions, I set my students the task of using the Boom Cards to review the key concepts and terms. I want my students to become self-directed, so I set a requirement that they must do the weekly review deck until they had a 90% or higher pass rate. This challenge sets for my students the expectation that they reflect on their learning and to persevere until they meet the goal. This allowed students who had mastered the material to show mastery and to move on, while students who did not score high enough knew that they had to redo the deck. Most of my students did the deck 1-3 times before reaching that 90% or higher score. Some students would redo the deck until they had 100% correct as a personal challenge they set for themselves.
You also can use the rewards system of Boom Learning to have students set goals.
Students can earn gems, lightning bolts, and boom coins by working through the decks and answering questions correctly on the first try. A gem is earned when a student correctly answers a question with no wrong answers attempted. When the number of gems earned matches the number of cards, a student has mastered the content for the deck. Students can tell they have mastered the material when the light green circle has completely changed to dark green.
The number in the center is the number of cards mastered. Lightning bolts reward “over-learning” behaviors, the concept that learning past mastery leads to automaticity and is earned each time a question is answered correctly, even if it has been answered correctly before. Coins are rewards for persistence and struggle. More coins are awarded for harder questions. Students get bonus coins by playing decks frequently and based on the difficulty of the questions so fill in the blank questions are worth more than multiple choice.
Data from Boom Cards
I like having data that I can use for formative assessments to plan which students to pull for interventions. Boom Cards are self-grading and give the students immediate feedback so they can track their progress. It also gives me a report that I can use to monitor progress. One particularly useful feature for me is the time on task chart which shows how much time a student spent on a question before answering it. This data let me see that a few students were rushing through the deck and I was able to pull them into a video chat to go over the data. This allowed me to get into a coaching stance with them, having them reflect on why they were rushing. For several students, it was very eye-opening to them to see that the questions they spent more time on had an almost perfect answer rate. Having that data to guide our discussion helped them take more control of their learning. Also, by allowing students unlimited repeats my students could monitor their progress and use that to help track goals. I knew that Boom Cards would have to become a permanent part of my tools when I had several students ask to reassign a deck so they could use it to review before the unit test. Thank goodness I was remote teaching at the time because that made me do a happy dance! My students were taking ownership of their learning. That deserves a celebratory lap!