Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How I use Work Boxes in my Classroom

I first stumbled across the concept of work boxes, task boxes, task schedule, whatever you want to call them from Sasha at The Autism Helper. After a few posts of hers on them, I decided to put some boxes together. This was toward the mid-end of the 2012-2013 school year. My boxes were all fine motor tasks and I did a blog post on them {here}.

I made them, but now what? I didn't know when to have my students use them or when to teach them. If I wanted to implement work boxes effectively in my classroom I needed to do more research.

A lot of what I came across was from Autism Classroom News. I found a book co-authored by Christine Reeve. I already had a copy of her book on setting up a classroom for students with autism, so I didn't think twice about ordering this book too.(affiliate link)

This really helped me wrap my head around the idea, and got my gears turning on how I could implement it in my own classroom. I realized I needed to change a lot of my activities. I needed tasks the students already knew how to do and could complete on their own. From there my system grew and grew. It's seriously my classroom baby and I love it. I love planning new activities for boxes and I love it when I see my students independently complete their whole work box schedule.

I've added another shelf since this photo was taken and put more boxes into some of those empty slots. Depending on how many students you have on work schedules will determine how many boxes you need. For me, this past year I had 6 students completing schedules at once. Each student was doing anywhere between 2-5 boxes at a time. At max, I'd need at least 30 boxes to ensure my students each could complete a different task. Hence the reason I have such a large set up.

I divided two horseshoe shape tables into 4 sections. Gave each student a spot with their name tag and a strip of velcro to list their work schedule and their earn following their work. For some students this was the ipad. For others this was simply going to free choice centers. One table is right in front of the boxes and the other is located elsewhere in the room. It was important to consider what students would travel better to get their boxes and which ones should be closer to the shelves. Also, I had to consider which students should return the boxes to the shelves on their own, and which ones simply needed a finished basket.

The additional pictures at the top of one students section correlate to a behavior plan. They have nothing to do with implementing task boxes in your own classroom. :)

I label my shelves with pictures of where each box goes. This allows the students to return the boxes to the correct spots on their own. I would really suggest to do this. I had one student who couldn't put boxes back independently until I added these pictures.

You'll also need to consider-- can my student match pictures? If so, what can they match independently? Colors? Shapes? Letters? Numbers? The child will need this pre-requisite skill to complete work boxes. Make sure you teach this first. I have one student who can match shapes and colors independently, but needs some support with letters. I try and keep the majority of tasks that are appropriate to her skill level in boxes that she can independently find.

One of my other favorite things about work boxes is I can target multiple IEP goals for my students by using this system. We are working on attention to task, independent functioning, matching, sorting, counting, identifying letters, one-to-one correspondence. The list goes on.

I use a "work" picture for my students to transition to their tables. They remove a picture (we're sitting on the carpet before this) and they place the picture on the velcro square at the top of their schedule on the table. From here, they move to the first picture on their schedule. Take it off, go match it, bring that box back to their spot.

Students are taught to take their finished picture to an adult when they complete their work, and then go back and bring an adult what their earn picture is. For the students in the photo above, you can see that all 3 of them earned the iPad. Fortunately each student tends to finish their work at a different time, however, we do have "iPad back-ups" if you will. I have 3 students earning the iPad for finishing their work and only 2 iPads in the classroom. I can't imagine this is a foreign struggle in any of your classrooms either. But don't worry, I have a solution (and it works!)

I created "iPad wait cards" for students who are waiting for the iPad. They can keep this card with them and go play at centers until an iPad is available, or just wait at the table. (You'd be surprised how many prefer to do that!) Occasionally I have students taken out for services when they may be in the middle of their earn time. This card works great for that too. They take the card with them and turn it in to a teacher when they come back to finish their time on the iPad.

Is there anything else you think you need to know or are you ready to set up work boxes in your classroom?! I could boast about this system for days! And you don't have to spend a lot of money to set it up! I shouldn't say you don't have to spend a lot of time, because initially it does take a little bit for prep. I buy my shoe box containers at Wal-Mart. They are .97 cents. DO NOT buy the Dollar Tree ones. The lids do not latch like they do on the Sterlite ones. You want them to latch. Trust me. The red lid containers are also from Wal-Mart in the kitchen section. You can get a 2-pack for $3.97 (i think). They were the perfect size for shelves, so I splurged. I have more tricks up my sleeve for our work boxes but those ideas are for future posts! Any questions? Post in the comments or email me at!


kathy said...

I love your iPad wait signs! Are you willing to share them? If not, I will make some myself since it is such a great idea! I teach a primary self-contained special ed class for students with intellectual disabilities and autism. They have morning workboxes (TEACCH method) each morning labeled 1, 2, and 3. They match the numbers on their desks to the basket. The difference is the adults in the classroom fill the boxes with tasks each day. I really enjoy your blog!
Kathy I.

Unknown said...

Love your system! Do you have separate tables for other activities? Are these table just used for work boxes? I have a self contained k-2 life skills class with 11 students and only 2 horseshoe tables to use for everything...

Unknown said...

Right now you can find Rubbermaid 5 packets of shoebox containers during college time a target they come out $1.00 each.

Christine Reeve said...

What an awesome post--your pictures are amazing! I love the table with the visuals and the iPad wait cards! What a great idea! And thanks so much for the shout out--I'm glad the books were helpful!

Autism Classroom News

Glimmers of learning said...

Are these like the pins on pinterest of busy bags?

Erin Lukas said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! No I don't have the ipad wait cards available anywhere. They're pretty simple to make :)

Chris-- thanks! I tell everyone who comes in my classroom and talks about the system to buy your book! It was the PERFECT tool and helper for me!

Angie-- I guess you could say the tasks are comparable, but this system has a lot of structure to it. And you want to make sure these tasks have clear starts and stops. So the child knows when the task is completed.

Erin Lukas said...

Valerie-- I have 4 tables total in my classroom. (It's actually a pretty big room). I have the one shown in this picture, and another just like it. Then I have a rectangle table that we use for "table time" toys and another "fat" horseshoe if you will, haha that we use for meals/art table. (It's on the tile floor while the rest are on carpet) My second horseshoe table will sometimes get used while children are playing (after work has been completed) When I work one on one with children I go where ever. I plan activities and store them in a M-F storage system and pull out what I need, then find a work spot.

Teach.Love.Autism said...

Erin- Love you work tasks system. I too have one in my classroom and this summer I am adding even more! I added two extra shelves and a life skills/ functional skills center with work tasks at them. Check out my blog and some of the work boxes I already have in my room! I love that you are in DE, I'm in PA and used to work close to the DE/PA border.



Anonymous said...

How many boxes do you have out? alphabet, numbers 1-20, colors, shapes? I am moving back to PreK but strictly SPED so trying to get a head start on how to set up because it is much different than general ed setting

Unknown said...

I have K-1 students with moderate-severe/profound disabilities (mostly severe/profound). Do you think this system would be effective for this population? Any tips for implementing/using the system with younger/more severe children? I know the difference between file folders tasks and workboxes; is there a reason to use one v another in an independent work system?

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