Tips for Implementing Successful Structured Work Systems

Setting up a successful work station is not an easy job, but these 3 tips will get you started in the right direction!

Have I ever told you how much I loved structured work? Not only am I teaching students how to become independent workers, but I am also freeing up TIME for myself and my paras to complete 1:1 instruction. Once students are completely independent, I do not need to assign staff to our structured work area and it allows a person to work with small groups or provide 1:1 instruction.

These are 3 tips for implementing a successful structured work system in your classroom.

Set up an independent work system that works for your classroom.If you  haven't seen the three types of work stations I use in my classroom, you should check them out: {Structured Work Station 1} {Structured Work Station 2} {Structured Work Station 3}
When you are setting up your work systems, I find it beneficial to set up an area that will be used ONLY for independent working time. I like to make sure I have the following items in my structured work center: desks for student work, storage system for work, and a reinforcement center.

In my classroom, I have added reinforcement into the structured work system. When my students arrive to the center they immediately choose a reinforcer they want to use when they have completed their work. These reinforcers are in bins just outside of the work area. Once students have completed their work, they have been trained to retrieve the reinforcer and interact with it until we switch centers. This piece of the system has made it truly independent for my learners and has allowed my staff and I that essential "free time" to work with other students.
Adding reinforcers in bins outside of our independent work station has motivated students to finish their work.

Train staff to implement independent work time and honor that time as a student work and productivity time.

I always make sure to train my staff in the basic do's and don'ts of independent work time. I have found it is important to stress the importance of independence with staff. After I have completed training I hang a quick do's and don'ts poster in the work station to remind adults what our desired outcome of the process is and what they can do to help foster independence for our students.

Click here to get your free do's and don't posters for structured work stations.

Teach students to use an independent work system through prompting and fading until they are 100% independent!

Here's the shocking part. You cannot simply put tasks in a box, create icons and task strips, and provide reinforcers and expect your students to know what to do. You are going to have to TEACH your students how to use the work station. I have found prompting and prompt fading to be the best way for me to teach students how to complete independent work.

When I have a new student, I will always full physical prompt him or her through the work sequence from initiating tasks to retrieving reinforcers and as we continue to teach I will fade back to partial physical, then gestural, then no prompting one step at a time. When my students are able to work 100% independently for 2 straight weeks I will fade my presence from the work area. I will often work on prep at a nearby table and continue to fade my distance from the work stations until my students are continuing to be independent. Once I have full faith that they can complete the work system independently I take my newly found "free time" to work 1:1 with students or with small groups. I will continue to check in 1-2x a week and collect data, but my student is independent now, we can all celebrate!

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