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Setting Up Independent Work Stations in Special Ed

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I’ve noticed a newfound love by many special education teachers implementing independnent workstations. You can read another blog post that I wrote about this topic, here. Whatever you want to call it… work tasks, job boxes, work boxes, etc. These systems that allow students to build independence in their lives through the use of some little Rubbermaid containers and mostly dollar store finds are making teachers so excited! I am no different!

Initially, this was one of the first things that I set up in my room when I found out I was going to be teaching students with Autism in a self-contained classroom. I have read a lot lately though that teachers have trouble storing the items and they have problems setting it up. Also, many teachers didn’t understand the importance of having students work on tasks that were independent work for them. There is science and research to back this method and it definitely is NOT busy work.

My work tasks behind the blue curtain and my newly added on the black shelf with about 25 more tasks in it and even more on top of it! I love them all! They are like my babies!

Independent Work Stations are the solution!

There is a specific solution to all that. It is called labeling and scheduling. YES, another schedule! I know it hurts to think that you have come up with another fool-proof schedule in your classroom. However, having a schedule and understanding of who is completing work when will be your best friend!

If your classroom is anything like mine you have multiple schedules.

You have:
the regular building schedule
the teacher’s job duty schedule
the paraprofessional job duty schedule
the students work schedule
a schedule for when to collect data and work on IEP’s

You need another schedule!

The list could go on and on and on for-EV-ER! Well, yes I’m going to tell you. If you haven’t already added a schedule for your work tasks in your classroom then you are going to want to do it now. The time and headaches that are saved are amazing! Students know what they should be working on and staff knows what students should be working on!

Here is a picture of what my work task schedule looks like.

Each student has a different set of boxes that no one else in the room has that day (so there are no mixups) and they don’t do the same box twice during the week (unless I make a special exception).
Here is a close-up of the Work Task Schedule in my room. This is what my student who puts the numbers on the desks uses as a reference to know what numbers and letters to put on.

Moreover, I have this schedule right next to my shelves of work tasks. This schedule is so that everyone in the room can know what each student is working on. The great thing about it is that it is simple, easy to read and understand, and it is laminated! I just write what the students complete each day with a dry-erase marker and it can be easily changed.

independent work station schedule
Student desk with the visuals that matched the tasks in the boxes for them to complete.

This year a student put the numbers or letters on the desk as part of their morning chores. Consequently, this also gave a job for the student that was meaningful and helped our classroom. And for the student, they were able to apply some functional skills of following a schedule which was great practice.

When do Independent Work Stations look like?

independent work stations student at work

First, within my classroom schedule, each student has time in their day to work on their work task boxes for that day. On the schedule for each day they have a different set of boxes. I have had times in the past where I had students that couldn’t handle different boxes on different days so they did the same ones over and over. I don’t like doing this because I think students should have variety because not every day in their life is really going to be the same but, for this particular student it worked well.

Secondly, during their “Work Task” time and during any other “downtime” students may work to complete their work boxes. Once they completed what was on their desk, they earned a break. Again, I have adapted this for students who may need more breaks. I have students that have breaks in between boxes and halfway through depending on their ability to work independently for periods of time.

Visuals for Independent Work Stations

Another great thing you will want to use to help students is visuals. You can use this visual that I have created for you for free to help students stay on task. The student starts by selecting an item they want to work for, which may just be a break. Once all the boxes had stars in them the students could then take a break!

independent work stations freebie
Would this be helpful to you? Be sure to sign up below at the end of this email to get this free set of visuals!

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What’s in the boxes?

Lastly, have you seen my other posts I have all kinds of work tasks? If you haven’t you can check my blog posts about work tasks here, and here, and here, and here.  I love making work tasks and love sharing the ideas with you too! And it should be a great way to get your brain started in thinking about building an independnent work station in your classroom!
build independence in your students_ work task station that works.jpg

4 Responses

  1. Your very organized! Do they do work boxes all day, everyday of the week or is this something that can be completed in an hour or two?

  2. Yes, I found the schedule after I posted that! I was just letting my kids work in the boxes in their free time but there doesn't seem much time for that lately. I think I will try to work it into the schedule as well.

  3. Karen, that seems to work well for me. I know that sometimes it is nice to have a filler when you get done something too early but, it has been a great independent work time for my students as well.