It’s December. And while in your mind you may be thinking December = winter break you’ve still got some weeks to go and some work left to do. But let’s not make it too complicated. We are still working on last month’s goal of taking useful and efficient data and those pre-holiday crazies do tend to take over in those final days before break. Let’s talk independent work. Independent work is the backbone of any successful classroom and if you don’t have enough independent work or a good system for kids accessing the tasks – you are probably feeling the pain. We are going to focus on academic independent work. We want our students to be completing independent tasks that are building important academic skills, practicing previously learned material, and generalizing concepts to new areas.
What is the purpose of independent work?
Remember we aren’t just doing things because “that’s the way they should be done.” We are making choices in our classroom about our structure and schedules and data that are meaningful and purposeful. We want to meet the needs of our kids. You don’t have independent work in your classroom because you should. You have independent work in your classroom for several important reasons: (1) it provides you time to work one on one or in small groups with other students and provide individualized instruction at their specific level (2) it teaches our students to work alone which is so functional and important (does your principal sit in your classroom all day to make sure you are working?? umm, no.) (3) it maintains previously mastered skills.
Now independent work doesn’t need to be busy or obnoxiously easy. If it’s way too easy for your student, they will likely be bored (and bored kids = naughty kids) so try to keep the tasks at the recently previously mastered level. We don’t want kids stringing beads and sorting colored bears for the rest of their lives. All of these great academic based skills that we are teaching them should be incorporated into independent work! That’s how skills get fully mastered and functional. When you are able to do something on your own without guidance or support is when you know you’ve truly got it!
So this month we are going to chat all about different ways to incorporate academics into the independent work systems of your classroom. Move over boring tasks – academics are coming to town. I think sometimes we get worried to challenge our kids and we especially get worried to challenge our kids when they are working on their own. It’s time to take of the training wheels and let them be free. Time to see if they can continue on with all of those great skills you have taught them once you aren’t there to help!
Also don’t be afraid to mix it up. One of my all-time favorite independent work systems was when I had a Reading Center of the Week and Math Center of the Week. It was so simple and easy it seems like it wouldn’t work.
I wrote the name of the task on the board, put the activity in the bin, and presented in Monday morning during morning meeting. Students completed the activity on their own all week and we checked work on Friday. I rotated activities each week. Nobody was bored. It was always academic based. And I could finally consistently utilize the huge closet of pre-made activities I had in a way that was manageable.