So many teachers are not using independent workstations or sometimes called independent work systems. I hear so many different objections to starting them in the classroom that I just wanted to highlight a few of them.
Independent workstations are vital to teaching students so many life skills.
What are independent work systems?
Independent work systems, also known as structured work systems, are commonly used in special education classrooms. They allow students to become successful, independent learners. Ultimately, they keep students engaged, help them follow a schedule, and generalize and maintain previously mastered skills.
Due to this, students are focused and on task versus engaging in negative behavior.
For additional information, be sure to check out What are Structured Work Stations?
6 objections to using independent workstations!
Often, it is easy to find reasons why something cannot be implemented. However, if the idea is best for students, it is essential not to use the reasons! Instead, it is crucial to find ways to overcome these reasons and provide the best education for students.
1. Not Enough Staff
Honestly, many teachers, especially in special education rooms, feel they do not have enough staff to implement independent work systems. But that is the great thing about these systems, it allows for a reduction of support needed.
Not having enough staff is precisely why independent workstations need to be implemented!
They teach students how to work independently!
Solution: Start structured work centers today! Start small and simple. Once independent work systems are up and running, they will no longer need to be supported by staff, allowing your classroom to run with less support.
2. Not Enough Room for an Independent Workstation
Space is often an issue in so many classrooms. While some ideas appear great, there is simply not enough space in the room. Ultimately, this is a reason why many teachers do not implement independent workstations.
Solutions: Independent Work Systems can be used in a small area of the room. If you have a table available, then you have enough room. Do you have a desk that can be used with a 3 drawer bin, then you can start right away!
3. Not Enough Materials in an Independent Workstation
Teaching with creative materials can be costly! Additionally, there is a concern that students will not appreciate the items and tear them apart. Thus, teachers may say they cannot use independent workstations due to these issues. However, great materials do not have to be costly! Also, the great thing about adapted materials is that they last forever! In addition, using what you have in the classroom as tasks to use in the independent workstations is how you can get started!
Solution: Find materials that you already have. For example, puzzles, put-in tasks, task boxes, and even worksheets! The tasks that you put into the independent workstation can be a variety of different materials!
There are so many ready-to-go materials that are low-cost! For instance, these Functional Life Skill Task Boxes include 53 task boxes for only $35! This one purchase includes so many vital skills, such as oral hygiene, using coupons, and reading a menu. Truly, this one purchase provides so many materials at a low cost! Thankfully, they can be printed and laminated for long-term use.
4. Implementation of Independent Workstations
Since teaching is so busy, it can be hard to find time to sit down and figure out how to execute new systems. Hence, teachers will forego using something new if it seems complicated. Thankfully, this should not be the case with independent workstations! Some teachers have even told me that they just don't know where to start and it seems to overwhelming!
I know the feeling, but you just need to start small!
Solution: Try starting with just a small 3 drawer bin with one student. You do not have to start with your entire caseload. Just start with one student and you can start with even one task. If you start there, it won't seem so overwhelming.
So many teachers would like to dive in all or nothing, but it doesn't have to be like that at all.
Don't put pressure on yourself.
Also, once you have a good variety of materials to choose from, students will love using independent workstations to calm down and center themselves.
5. How to keep it all organized!
Oftentimes, teachers want a Pinterest-perfect classroom and a perfectly organized closet. I say, not everything needs to be Instagram-ready!
Solution: Start by using your closet or storage spot and sort your task by category. This will help when you are pulling out items for the students.
Something that really helped me was buying task boxes.
They are easily organized, small, in boxes. They are so very easy to throw in any structured work system. For example, this box of ELA task boxes is easy to store and keep organized!
6. Not Needed in General Education Rooms
Inclusion is a huge focus in schools. Students in the general education classroom may have trouble working independently. Some students may get stuck on a certain aspect or are just used to having an adult by them. But that doesn't mean that you cant implement independent work systems in the classroom!
Solution: Some students will want to be discreet about using independent work systems in the general education setting. Some students will choose to use a binder system or a folder system while in the general education setting. That way they are still completing work on their level in a discreet way.
While starting independent workstations may seem overwhelming, they really are not! More importantly, they are incredibly helpful for students when teaching them to be independent!
This includes becoming independent inside and outside of the classroom. While 6 objections to using independent workstations may have stopped teachers from implementation, focus on the solutions.
Honestly, there are so many benefits to independent workstations when teaching students life skills.
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