Independence...it is the number one most important thing our students can learn.
When I am discussing independence with others I like to clarify by saying...
What I mean is...
Can my students exhibit the skill without anyone else present?
across all environments? (school, home, relevant community settings)
without reinforcement provided by others?
Do my students maintain the skill over time?
All of these questions are important and need to be considered. If I can't answer 'yes' for each one... then we need to do more work.
All too often I hear others say a skill is mastered. When in reality- the student can't do the skill unless they are in their familiar classroom, with a known teacher, and a token economy is running. Does this sound familiar?
True independence takes TIME, it's hard, but it's worth it. I am never more proud than when I see one of my previous students doing something I know I taught them years before. They are amazing!
There are so many important skills to work on before my students age out of the school system at 21 years...so I want to make sure I am choosing the RIGHT skills. My students work HARD and I want to use their time wisely.
One way I build independence in my classroom is through SCHEDULES.
Who doesn't love a good schedule? I can't imagine how I would remember where to be all day without them!
Our students often need this structure, so my students have schedules for just about everything. They have full day schedules, vocational schedules, leisure schedules, peer interaction schedules, and mini schedules within schedules. My students thrive off this structure and I LOVE the progress they make!
Not only do schedules help minimize problem behavior, maintain mastered skills, and generalize skills to new environments....but you guessed it- they help students do things INDEPENDENTLY. After all...this is the ultimate goal.
One of my favorite independent schedules for adolescents is a "work schedule"----more specifically an AGE APPROPRIATE work schedule. This is where my students practice mastered pre-vocational or vocational skills. I want to help my students acquire a variety of vocational skills so they can one day have a meaningful job.
A FEW THINGS TO REMEMBER:
1. Only include MASTERED tasks
....you want students to follow the schedule without help.
2. Choose AGE APPROPRIATE tasks...ideally ones that target IEP goals
DO use coins when sorting
DON'T use Sesame Street figurines when sorting
3. Vary the tasks frequently to prevent boredom or memorization
Everyone has their own method.... but make sure it works for your class and students. Our students are smarty pants and they often memorize the order of the schedule and individual tasks. Memorization, in this case is not our friend. I want my students to use the schedule to determine what they need to do.... not memorize it once and never look back. Real life schedules can be unpredictable....and so should our schedules in class.
4. Make sure all tasks are prepared and clear
Nothing is worse than our students getting a bin, only to find half of the materials missing and no directions. Of course you could do this purposefully in order to teach "asking for assistance"---- but that's a topic for another day.
5. Do NOT have students undo tasks
.....you wouldn't undo your own work would you?
We want our students to see the value of completing their work.
6. Teach students to access reinforcement
....I know I usually work for $, what about you?
reinforcement doesn't have to inhibit independence....just help students access their own reinforcement instead of relying on others to track and provide it fore them.
I have become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to independent work tasks. They fill my classroom bookshelves, closet, and sometimes my car. I know I am not the only one in this boat. You all know who you are... :)
My favorite places to find things to include in new bins are The Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot. I can always count on both places to have something I NEED.
I plan to participate in WORKBASKET WEDNESDAY and write many more posts on this topic...so stay tuned!