January Newsletter | Making Independent Work Systems Work for Your Classroom

January 2024 Newsletter

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Making Independent Work Systems Work for Your Special Ed Classroom

Working independently is one of the most important skills to foster in students with autism and other developmental disabilities. This type of work is beneficial to students at all learning levels because it offers each student the opportunity to exercise ownership of their work. Here are some tips to help you make independent work time a success for all your students.

#1 Organization for the win

To make independent work time meaningful for students, it’s important to create a system that’s intuitive and simple for students to use. To create independent work stations that provide students with the visual and environmental supports they need to complete work independently, use this Independent Work Step-by-Step Guide (English | Spanish).

#2 Streamline independent work for your classroom

Get everyone on the same page with a consistent process that functions well both for students and staff in your classroom. Independent work systems provide students with the visual and environmental supports they need to complete work independently. They answer student questions like . . .

"What do I need to do?" | "How much work and in what order?" | "How do I know when I'm finished?"

With this in mind, we designed our Routine Essentials Independent Work suite (for Media Center subscribers) and our Routine Teaching Unit Independent Work suite (for Links subscribers) to provide teachers with practical tools you can use to help implement independent work systems in your classroom. We know it can be overwhelming to set up new systems for your class when you’re already running low on resources and time. So, in addition to tip sheets and step-by-step guides, we equip you with tons of photos, illustrations, diagrams, and printable supports to make your own system work for your students’ unique needs. Non-subscribers, you can check out our free resources, such as this independent work sequence strip (English | Spanish), to help students stay on task and in charge of their own work! Or purchase a subscription for full access to our collection of materials, here to support your students in reaching success.

#3 Consider your students’ individual learning levels

The purpose of independent work can differ greatly from student to student. For early learners, the primary goal of independent work is to gain the skill of sitting and working independently. Intentionally teach the student how to complete the task during a period of teacher-directed time, prior to putting it in the student’s independent work bins. For a student working at this level, all tasks in the independent work system should be tasks that they’ve already mastered. At a more advanced level, students are working on generalizing skills they’ve learned in other areas of the classroom, including DT, PRT, and classroom routines. Use the Student Learning Profile (SLP) or Links Assessment to identify mastered skills that can be used to teach the independent work routine (e.g., assembling puzzles, matching numbers, completing simple play routines, etc.).

For students at more advanced levels, consider using independent work time as an opportunity to teach them to request help when needed (an important skill in the general education environment). Older students may benefit from this "How to Do My Work" visual (English | Spanish) to support them in completing a self-guided individual assignment.

#4 Choose independent work tasks wisely

When it comes to picking specific tasks for students to complete, consider activities that will make independent work a successful learning experience for each individual student. Identify preferred tasks for students so they can enjoy this time. Make considerations for things like fine motor difficulties to ensure students are facing tasks that they can physically complete on their own. Create your own tasks customized to your students’ needs, or choose from STAR and Links independent work tasks designed for students at a variety of learning levels. Media Center and Links subscribers have access to dozens of monthly themed activities, including:

File folder tasks | Worksheets | Fine motor tasks

No matter what level your students are working in, STAR offers independent work activities to meet them where they are. Check out this free ELA independent work series (English | Spanish) to get started today!