The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Independent Work

After more than twelve weeks of school, I chose to introduce a new element to our weekly routines, although it is something we have done off and on throughout the year. The routine is simple: for about thirty minutes on Wednesday morning, the students have the opportunity to select their own independent work activities from a list of approved tasks. These tasks include silent reading, missing math assignments, independent writing, spelling work, current writing assignments, and research for their social studies or science units.

I decided to introduce this as a way for students to develop some greater levels of self-regulation. I also know that I have some students who may not have time to complete all of these tasks at home. I also wanted the class to see that they can give sustained attention to an activity. In order to help facilitate the process, I let the class know that they would be allowed to talk quietly during this time provided they a) stayed on task and b) kept noise levels below 80 decibels.

The decibel level has been something we have used off and on throughout the year. I have a decibel meter on my phone and use it to measure how loud the classroom is. I was very curious to see how things would go with this new addition to the routine. The goal is to set aside the same block of time every Wednesday morning for this work.

I am very pleased to state that our independent work time went extremely well. Every student in the class was working on one of the tasks given and made sure that any talking was done at a whisper so as to avoid disrupting their classmates. The distribution of the very activities was evenly spread out throughout the class. As we continue through the year, I anticipate that this block of time will have continued value to the students.

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