Independent Work Systems for Younger Students

Categories: Work Tasks

I’m a huge fan of teaching independent work.

In fact, I’ve talked before about how independent work has saved my classroom. Independent work can free your time so you are able to teach, access, and work with small groups while other students are working. It can work in any grade level, from early childhood all the way through adulthood. However, depending on your learners, the way you set up your independent work may vary. Let’s take a look at how I set up my independent work. 

Think About Space

When working with younger students, if we want something to be independent, we need them to be able to access it at their height and level. For this reason, I use a shorter shelf. If tasks are too high, young learners won’t be able to reach them independently. Consider organizing items to complete by shelf or bin. This makes it easy for learners to determine what they need to do. Also, consider where you will store extra tasks that you will rotate in. In this space I have two or three tasks for students. I have task card bins, adaptive and errorless matching books and the occasional interactive binder. Everything stays organized in task card bins and book bins. Binders sit independently on a shelf. In the rolling cart next to the shelf, I have materials I’ll rotate in. 

Color Code VS. Alphabet Code

The very first thing I ever purchased from The Autism Helper was the Work Task System. It completely changed my classroom! At the time, all of my learners knew their alphabet and could easily identify letters. The system was easy to use, easy to rotate and easy to implement. This year brings a whole new set of learners, including those who are still learning to match letters. Most know colors, though, so it was an easy choice to color code my independent work. I use colored dot stickers from amazon to easily show which student is doing which adapted book. I used larger colored dots on the task card boxes and color code bins for students to find their adapted books.

Independent Work means Already Mastered Skills!

All too often we are trying to squeeze in IEP goals and new progress. One of the biggest mistakes I see made when setting up independent work is that teachers pull tasks for skills that are not yet independent. To be successful with independent work, you need to make sure all skills are mastered and mastered WELL. If a student is new to you, look back on previous IEPs and find skills they have mastered, and use those for independent work!

Our ABLLS task cards are the perfect choice for independent work. Once a student has mastered a skill and is fluent with it, you can send it right to the student’s independent work bin. Talk about an easy set-up! Another tip is to keep everything you need in the task card holder so students don’t have to get up and wander the room to find materials.

For students who are just starting to learn skills, don’t rule out independent work! Try put-in tasks (Heather has a great post about expanding on put-in tasks here!) and errorless and Easy Matching Workbooks.

No matter how young your learners are, with the right set-up they can be successful with Independent Work Tasks!

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Jen Koenig
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