Independent work is one of the pillars of a successful classroom. Many of us work in classrooms that are understaffed and overcrowded. Our students are likely doing independent work for more of the day than we’d prefer but we gotta work with what we’ve got. Or maybe you are one of the lucky few (#jealous) who are in a perfectly staffed classroom. Well, even if you are in that situation it’s still imperative to have independent work within your room. The skill of working on their own is one of the most important and valuable life skills we can give our students. In order to have a job, go to the grocery store, or order a cheeseburger at McDonalds you need to know how to complete tasks on your own. The job part is key. Any and every job will require independent work. We need to teach our students (even our young students) to work with less and less adult help for longer and longer times.
This situation is a win/win. Independent work is an essential life skill for your students to learn and it gives you the chance to work in small groups with other students.
Independent work is important throughout the year but it is ESPECIALLY important in the start of the year. In the start of the year, there is SO MUCH TO DO. You are working hard to set up those routines and establish yourself as a reinforcer. Then you need to train your paraprofessionals, implement behavior plans, begin assessments, and take baseline data. I’m tired just writing that all out. Now if you think your students are going to sit nicely with their hands folded while you do all that – you have lost your damn mind. You need to ensure your students are engaged and working at all times. That means load up on the independent work at the start of the year!
If you want to accomplish this months routines & reinforcer goals - independent work is the key!
Independent work will give you the time to teach other students the routines in the classroom. It will also establish your classroom as a reinforcer because students are completing previously mastered tasks that they know how to do. Doing things you are good at is reinforcing!
We have talked a lot about independent work this summer. My favorite systems are the numbered bin system, binders, and checklists.
When it comes to independent work, think outside the box. It can be coloring, word searches, puzzles, life skill tasks, standing work, and more! The sky is the limit. The only goal is that your student is appropriate completing the task without you!