This is a picture of the work stations as of January 2015
Back in September of last year, I typed a post regarding work plans. A few days ago I read another wonderful post about work plans, and I wanted to add what is still working for us, and how they have evolved.
You can find the inspirational post at Montessori Homeschooling. Abbie did a wonderful job explaining them in the comment section!
In our house, work plans are the first thing we do in the learning room every day. They are created during our conversations right next to the white erase board. We use the white erase board to jot down notes (or draw depending on who is making the notes). During these very important daily conversations we collaborate to organize our day. We talk about what we have done in the past, things that are interesting and working for them, projects we want to start, and new materials that I have available to them. The work plan helps us organize it all. It becomes a plan of action that gives them independence, and gives me the knowledge to understand when I will be needed for demonstrations, and/or support. Ever since we started doing work plans the kids are able to do more on their own. Their learning has become individualized and self driven.
That said, I have to add that the next most important thing I do to help the kids work independently is organize their, "work boxes". To be more specific, I am switching the name to working stations. The main goal of the stations next to their desks is to serve them as a place to store all the materials needed to complete the work they select to do. You might want to see them as the drawers from an office desk, or the drawers in the kitchen. They do not contain the work, they contain the tools to do it! You will not find worksheets, or workbooks in there.
Having these work stations ready avoids the constant interruptions when I am helping one of them and the other is in need of a book, scissors, glue...etc. They are also used as a reminder that there is something else they can do when they are finished with a task. It is up to their own work plan to select the order in which they want to practice each of the literacy (and now Math!) skills. Some days the kids will cover every single skill. Most days they will focus on a few. They are all available and helpful to develop an independent learner.
Here is part of the previous post:
I read this wonderful post about work plans from the blog What DID we do all day?
I made a comment there and said I was going to post what I used here.
1. My children are (update: almost 4) and 5+
2. Daily 5 by Gail Boushey &Joan Moser ("the sisters") is a method I used as a classroom teacher. It fosters literacy independence. The child chooses to practice skills offered. Skills: Listening to Reading, Work on Writing, Work with Words, Read to Self, and Read to Someone.
3. Work boxes are used by many home schoolers in different ways. I took the idea and adapted it to our needs.
What is in our work
UPDATE: just for fun, I am adding a picture next to every drawer so you can see the difference between September 2014 and January 2015
Big sister: 5 + years old
First drawer: Read to Self. She and I select a few books she is comfortable with and excited about reading on her own.
Update: Only the books have changed. The purpose of this drawer is the same.
Second drawer: Work on Writing. For now, all she really wants to do is journal. She chooses this work on her own. She likes recording what she does. It also turns into a Read to Self practice as she reads her previous entries. What can I say? She and I love to keep records!
Update: Yes, that is the same notebook!
Third drawer: Listen to Reading. Inside she will find earphones, a few books, and their corresponding Cd's. I take a lot from the library =)
Update: We continue to use books with CDs. For now we are using the Karaoke machine since the Cd player is broken :( They are hearing the story at the same time hence no need for the earphones.
9/14 01/15Fourth drawer: Work with Words. Inside she has a notebook, and manipulatives to practice spelling words, word families, high frequency words, and anything else related to words. We come up with a list of words to work on based on what she needs for writing independently.
Update: She has been working on cursive writing. She is using the same word cards with images related to the letters her brother is learning. It has been a lot easier on me because all she needs is the scissors and glue. She thinks she is only practicing her cursive, but in fact she is learning spelling, increasing her vocabulary, and practicing motor skills with the cutting and gluing!
Fifth and sixth drawers: empty! I wont hide it or lie about it. I need to get my act together! I hope to provide something for math and science here. We do use Montessori materials to do math, but it is not her favorite thing to do. After reading the post mentioned below
I know I can and should do it! I also do most of the science with both kids, but I know she can have extra materials here to deepen her knowledge. I am planning on giving her materials to make a book about fish parts that she asked to do.
Update: we made the book about fish!
Big Sister now has a math drawer. In it she can easily find her notebook (grid paper), her stamps since we are learning positional value, and a chart for addition.
She also has a Science/culture drawer where she keeps all the materials she is using to create the books of the topics she is currently interested. At the moment it is all about ladybugs. A few days ago, it used to be the Mayan alphabet chart, and Mexico book or the dolphin lapbook. This is the most versatile drawer in the station.
Little Guy: almost 4 years old
first drawer: Read to Self: books focusing on vocabulary not stories. He is not reading yet, but these books help him develop a reading habit.
Update: We have moved to books with word lists and short sentences.
Second drawer: Work on Writing. He is working with letrilandia, and the initial sound objects. Since he is at a basic level, we are just working on writing letters. I help him write words. You can see many images of his work on writing in my daily post of our home learning.
Update: He has started to journal too. I also have the eraser board and markers since he dictates to me and copies from it.
Third drawer: Listening to Reading. Same as his sister
Fourth drawer: Here is a little bit for math fun, usually counting objects. For now he is counting fish.
Update: We added a grid notebook and materials to learn the 9 digits.
Above you see Little Guy's work on words journal. It is used to practice writing individual words and increasing vocabulary related to the letters he is learning.
Here is his science drawer with the materials to make his lapbook about ladybugs. You can see the beginning of his lapbook on the right.
Finally, sometimes the kids remember to move the image label. Sometimes they do not. I move it for them. I might mention the next day that they have something to work on waiting for them. They still can choose not to do it. But they know it is there for them. I also like to quickly see if a drawer needs to be checked for materials to be changed, or to add more to present something in particular for a future activity.
What about me! Here is mami's work station. I also don't use them daily. They help me stay organized! I take the drawers and make/find the materials needed. This mini office of mine is in a different room in our house.
Update: my working space has not changed much. I do have a Spanish keyboard on top of my laptop to make typing a bit easier for me. I keep all the materials I need to support my kids' learning at my fingertips .
As you can see, their work plan still helps us figure out what we want to do, and the working stations provide the materials to do it. I am trying to find a way to make homeschooling pleasurable for all, and part of it is being able to help the kids be independent. I don't have elaborate plans, I don't constantly create art projects, I don't change their materials daily (nor even weekly). I try to provide a serene enriching environment where we can dive into their interests and enjoy our time together.