My first year in the self-contained classroom I was overwhelmed and understaffed (okay, so that’s EVERY year, but especially year one.)
To make the most of our time, I began incorporating an independent work station. While stressful at first, I quickly learned that an efficient interdependent work station can change the entire way your classroom runs. Here are a few tricks I have picked up along the way.
The first thing to consider is how YOU want your independent work station to look. Once those expectations are established, it is important to then teach, re-teach, and practice these expectations consistently. Students should know exactly what this station should look like and sound like.
How do they ask for help? What should they do when the station is completed?
Utilize your Staff
As with student expectations for independent stations, it is also important to properly train any staff that might be in charge of this station. In my K-2 self -contained classroom, our independent station required quite a bit of support, especially in the beginning.
My paraprofessionals were excellent at managing this station, because we established teacher expectations early on. They knew the prompt hierarchy (least to most intrusive). They knew how often to reinforce at rates specific for each kid. When we noticed something wasn’t working, we worked together to brainstorm strategies that might work better.
Make a list of all the things your students will need to be successful. Visuals and other positive behavior supports can play a huge role in how this station functions.
I always make sure my students have all the materials they need in advance (dry erase markers, clothespins). If a student is expected to complete an activity without the needed materials, I find that this often lead to unwanted off-task behaviors.
Table top pocket charts are a great way to organize visual pieces.
Start Small and Reinforce Expected Behaviors
Independent work stations should consist of activities the students can complete INDEPENDENTLY. Start with tasks the students have already mastered.
Error-less activities are also great options for students first learning the routine. (Think: simple put-in tasks). As students learn the routines, begin to incorporate more academic concepts.
How do you run your independent work stations?