Tuesday's Teaching Tip

Independent Work: Not working for you?

When you’re teaching more than one child, independent work is necessary.  In order to work one-on-one with a child, the others need to be doing something, right?  But if independent work is not executed in a purposeful manner, it can become a necessary “evil”, serving to frustrate your child–and you, too!  Do you ever find yourself saying to those little blessings, “You can do this by yourself…you don’t need my help!” multiple times?  I hope I’m not the only one in this boat!

Here are a few suggestions this reading mama has in regards to independent work-and these apply not only to reading, but to any content area: (I don’t pretend to be an expert on this subject matter.  I’d love to hear your ideas as well!!)

Independent Work should be used to review something you have already introduced to your child.

Independent Work is not a time to introduce new material.  She should already possess the skills and strategies to tackle the assignment on her own; thus the word independent.  For ideas on moving your child from relying on you to working independently, visit my post.

  • It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of workbooks or worksheets, but independent work is a great time to use these to review skills and strategies you’ve already learned together.
  • Already done an activity together?  Use independent time for her to review that same activity (maybe in a different way).  Meaningful repetition is an important component of learning.
  • When a child is expected to independently read and comprehend a text, she needs to be able to read 98% or more of the words on her own.

Create activities that are “self-checking”.

Self-checking means that the activity has a built-in checking system that will alert the child when she has made a mistake.  Here are a couple of examples of this:

On the back of the pictures, I have written the words so ALuv can go back and make sure all his words match correctly on his own.

So what was I doing while ALuv spelled his words…

…matching bottle cap letters on sentence strips with NJoy.

Establish a routine for getting help.

  • When I taught in the classroom, I had a little stuffed dog I would set out on the table if I was assessing a student one-on-one while my class did some independent work.  His presence meant: do not disturb me unless it’s an emergency!  Because there are times where interruption is not an option, establish a back-up plan for getting help.  And there’s no need to have the plan figured out yourself.  Before independent work, pose this question to your child, “If I can’t help you, what are some other resources you can use?”   Brainstorm some together, then decide on two or three so your child is ready with some extra strategies.
  • I like Carissa’s help card system concerning independent work.  This is also an awesome post about workboxes.  Scroll down through the post towards the bottom to see the “help” system.

Create a reward for accomplished work.

Despite out attempts to do it all “right”, our little blessings may still claim they simply “can’t do it!”  (I had one of those times just this week with ALuv.)  Certain activities, such as writing, may be a trigger for these melt-downs.  Plan ahead!  Have something special waiting for them on the other side.  I recently went to a homeschool conference in which the speaker said, “Have a plate of brownies waiting…and why not?  You’re at home; not in a school setting!”

This Reading Mama’s disclaimer concerning rewards: External motivators are not my favorite strategy for engaging kids.  I think we need to first examine what we’re asking them to do.  If they don’t see the purpose or meaning in the activity, more than likely they won’t be motivated to do it. 

Do you have any suggestions to share concerning independent work?  I’d love to hear them!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Syl-la-ble Sort « This Reading Mama

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