In a busy day at school, back at home, or getting ready for tomorrow, kids can always use some help. Here's what we tried in kindergarten.
It seemed to me that at the beginning of many kindergarten activities, some pupils seemed to instinctively get organized and others often were looking around, moving materials at random, or dropping them. Several solutions were obvious: The teacher circulates to help, the student observes others, or some progressive maturity corrects it all, eventually. All of these seemed to cry for some more ideas.
Having once watched a time-study employee timing a production job, I decided to break down some typical lessons into motion segments.
What happens in most problems or activities? We receive a directive, either of our own (a thought) or from someone else. Then we get whatever tools or equipment is needed. We think about the action. We perform the action. We put tools, our equipment away. We feel the satisfaction of the completed activity. We all know the formula, or do we?
I then asked whether these segments were usable for most activities at school and whether this could also be useful at home. Could we use this in art, gym, or math time? Could we wash the dog, rake leaves, or make a bed using a deliberate regimen? I felt we could.
"My Work Plan" unfolded into six steps that were short, consistent, and as easy to read as the English language allows. Steps 1 through 5 are the physical actions and Step 6 gives the satisfaction element.
I explained to my kindergartners that we were going to try "My Work Plan." I read the steps written on the board. I demonstrated how the rules worked for drawing a picture. The next day I read the steps again from the board and showed how to set a table. By the third day, many students were chanting the rules with me. We then discussed a job suggested by a student. During our school day, I used the plan for many activities.
The next step was giving a copy of "My Work Plan" to decorate and take home. A cover notice said that we would display any note from home stating the rules had been memorized. All sorts of messages came back! Each piece of correspondence was displayed, from recipe cards to Post-it notes to casual scraps of paper. The notes were very encouraging and students often pointed out their home message to friends. No return from home? I tested several pupils at my desk and added a note for them.
At the next conference, many parents remarked about "My Work Plan" and had some great anecdotes about the project. "My Work Plan" becomes effective only with friendly reviews during the school year and plenty of compliments. So if you need another nudge for your students add "My Work Plan" to your agenda.
"My Work Plan"
1. I listen
2. I get things ready.
3. I think about it.
4. I do it.
5. I clean up.
6. I did a great job.
* Ruth Halverson has retired as a kindergarten teacher in the Mount Horeb, Wis., area schools.