Tips for Setting Up Your Independent Work System

Set up your tasks.

So this first step might seem obvious but there is a specific way I like to work on this. You likely have a plethora of bins and work tasks in your room. I suggest filling a shelf (or two) with empty bins first. Don’t worry about the tasks. Fit as many different bins in the shelf as you can. I like to use a combination of small and large bins and fit as many in. Use tupperware, plastic bins, whatever you can find. Doesn’t need to be pretty. Then add the tasks. Make sure to save the bigger bins for larger tasks. I like starting this way because you can really maximize space and get the most bang for your buck.

If you need ideas for work task ideas, I have TONS! Check out my work task pinterest board. I also have 5 different work task mega packs that I love. It has the setup, labels, and visuals for the work tasks included in the resource.

Label the bins.

Next label the bins. Think about the skill set of your students before you select label types. If they can’t all match letters, don’t use letters. You can label them with letters and numbers, pictures, or colored shapes. I love the colored shape options for my foundational level learners! .

Make the schedule.

Then you want to set up the materials to make student schedules. Basically print multiple copies of whatever you used to label the bins (letters, shapes, etc) to make identical schedule pieces. Laminate and velcro those for each students’ schedule. Then setup where you will put student schedules. You can have them all in one place next to the independent work station. You can have certain students’ schedules in a special spot or even embed it into their daily schedule. There is no right or wrong way! I typically try to do 3 independent work tasks so kids can work on transitioning between tasks (which is part of the skill here!) and the station is long enough to build up some work endurance. But again no right or wrong way. Some kids may be better suited for one task or you can add more for your busy bees!

This last step you can’t forget. This is what makes this system so dang amazing and effective and efficient and amazing. Did I say amazing already? Plan out the schedule for the week. This will take time. It will be annoying. You will need to use pencil and erase one million times. Make a schedule for each day of the week for each student. You goal is that no two kids are assigned the same task on the same day (no redoing tasks in the middle of the day!) and that each student is only doing the same task once a week (or maybe twice. So Johnny does task A on Monday, nobody else is assigned task A on Monday, and isn’t assigned to him again all week. Once you have this schedule, then you repeat it through the year. Every Monday Johnny gets task A, K, and P. This schedule is key because it avoids accidentally giving the same students the same tasks over and over and ensures that you aren’t need to redo tasks mid day. You can even have students set up the schedule at the end of the day or in the morning as a class job!

Need more info?

I have a ton of resources on this topic! Holly wrote an awesome post with a ton of pictures on her setup process last spring, I also give more detail on the weekly schedule in this post, and I have this whole resource ready to roll on TpT. Also check out the video tour on YouTube:

8 Comments

  1. Good Morning,
    I am a behavior Therapist from Ohio and we are starting a transition ABA Program for our older kids who are in the program. I am researching important life skills for my kiddos to try and switch their programs up and give them more of a variety. I was wondering if you had any good print outs and information. I also noticed at the top of this post the picture of the number cards with the clothes pins and the environmental matching pages, do you have a link to be able to print these things out.
    Thank you in advance for any information you may have.
    Doug Fawcett

    Reply
  2. Hello,

    I was wondering if this workbox system would work with preschool children. Also, do the students in your classroom use the independent task system at the same time? Do you have a designated time when you do this in your classroom? What goal do you have in my mind when you set up the task boxes? Is your goal for your students to be able to complete the task independently or is it to challenge them academically? Or both? I’m in process of setting up my independent work station in a preschool classroom of 7 students. So if I want each of my students to complete at least 3 task boxes, I would need at least 21 task boxes total. Correct? Sorry, I have a lot of questions 🙂 Also, do you change out the tasks in the boxes and If you do how often? Thank you so much!

    Reply
  3. I teach 1/2 day preK. How do I organize task boxes for 2 sets of classes? I’ve got the boxes and schedule cards, but now I seem to be stuck. Thank you

    Reply
  4. Sasha, how often do you switch out the tasks? My kids are doing well with this system but I can tell they are getting bored with the tasks. I struggle to find the time to put some new ones together.

    Reply
  5. I leave them all year – just change the schedule for the students so they aren’t doing the same tasks every day! The key is having enough tasks so they can do different ones each day.

    Reply
  6. Sasha,

    I teach high school Moderate ID (75% of my kiddos also have Autism). I currently have a large variety of work/task boxes but they are categorized by life skill or vocational task and are typically used during that “class period”. I would love to set up an independent work task center during our academic rotations and am struggling with if I should use those task boxes more during our academic rotations or if I should create more academic tasks for them to use. The dilemma is I have 2 classrooms and our academic work is done in a different room than our life skills/vocational lab so I really feel like they need to be separate. Any tips??

    Thank you!

    Reply

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