If you are looking for more about work plans, you can see this work plan in action and read a lot of discussion in the comments in the post "A Day in the Life of Kal-El."
AFTER I made this work plan for Kal-El, Jessica blogged about one of several work plan styles she has used over at Montessori Trails. Hers is a lot simpler and takes up less time and space. I plan on switching at least Kal-El (Me Too has his own chart) over to a work plan like Jessica demonstrates in the near future. However, just like the Montessori math materials start with the concrete and move through increasing levels of abstraction, Jessica's work plan is just a little bit more abstract than the charts I made for the boys. She blogged about another style she has used as a "first" work plan in another post. Ours is kind of a hybrid between the two. I think you'll see what I mean as I talk more about it.
I bought the pocket chart at Target in the dollar aisle maybe three years ago and it has been waiting in the basement storeroom for just the right application. As soon as Me Too saw Kal-El's pocket chart he HAD to have one TOO! AND he had many suggestions for "improvements." Thankfully, I had purchased one for each child in their "signature colors" (Kal-El's is red, Me Too's is blue). I gave each child an envelope with their name on it and filled the envelope with one week's worth of cards labeled with activities. There are some things I want them to do every day (like memorization boards) and some things they only have to get to once or twice within the week. For this reason there are five cards labeled "Math: subtraction" in Kal-El's envelope but only one or two that say "dot game." The boys have the choice to fill in a day at a time or if they wish they can fill in the whole week at the beginning of the week. After they complete a task they turn the card over. Kal-El's are blank on the back. Me Too realized right away that this should be improved on HIS chart by the addition of dog stickers on the backs.
Here was Me Too's chart from the first week at the beginning of the week:
Monday is blank because I introduced the chart to Kal-El on Monday and hadn't planned on giving one to Me Too. I made Me Too's chart Monday night and gave it to him on Tuesday. Friday is also blank because we had coop that day. One of my jobs over the weekend is to peek at their envelopes of cards and make sure everything is relevant and that nothing needs to be added. Another task is to make sure there are an appropriate amount of cards in the envelope for the number of days we plan to have in the school room that week. Me Too asked me to include "violin" cards for his chart. Kal-El does NOT have violin cards in his. It is an unchanging part of his daily life but it happens outside the work period in the school room so he doesn't want it on his chart. Me Too is a list maker and loves crossing things off. Also, he has less required work and I think he was miffed that his chart didn't look as "impressive" as Kal-El's and this evened it up a bit.
Here is Me Too's chart at the end of that week after all the cards had been turned over:
The very first week I had them plan the whole week at once so they could see the potential consequences of their choices. For example, each card that says "Math: subtraction" represents filling in a full page in Kal-El's subtraction notebook with equations. There are FIVE cards that say this in the envelope for the week. While Kal-El doesn't dislike the subtraction boards he definitely likes the OTHER math works BETTER. So, when he first filled out the chart with the cards he realized that when he got to the last day of the week he was holding five subtraction cards in his hands. If I had let him fill in the chart a day at a time he would have an unpleasant surprise at the end of the week. Now that they understand how it works they get to fill out as many or as few days at a time as they wish. As you could see in Kal-El's work plan from Monday, he prefers to plan one day at a time. They can make changes or swaps throughout the week as the mood strikes. Kal-El learned an important lesson as he kept swapping the "grammar" card further and further away from him as the week progressed but had nowhere left to put it at the end of the work cycle that Friday.
I don't make them choose a certain number of math cards and a certain number of language cards per day anymore. They just have to choose a certain number of cards, period. This has resulted in some days where all they want to do is math and some days where all they want to do is language. I think this is great and as it should be. Even when we had a loose verbal agreement to do a certain amount of language or math in a day sometimes the boys would just be in a language kind of mood. They would stall their math work again and again wanting to read, then write, then spell, then have a grammar lesson. Usually the next day all they want to do is math. In fact, I would say that for the past two years there is usually a heavy language day and a heavy math day each week. There is usually one day that is super heavy on the science and the other days are a mix.
The downside of these charts is that they take up a lot of room. I don't have any wall space left to hang them. Right now they are lying around on the window seat or on the table...taking up valuable real estate in either location. One of Jessica's systems is a sheet of standard-sized paper with a few different lists on it and involves simply moving paperclips from one side of the paper to the other. As I said, I will probably switch Kal-El to that style soon. I don't regret putting these together though because I feel like they are a decent stepping stone that my kids might have needed anyway. The pocket chart is good for giving them a tangible way to construct a week's worth of work with their hands, manipulate it, and explore the possibilities.
Speaking of exploring the possibilities, there aren't very many strictly Montessori posts about work plans out there in the blogosphere. Here are just a few that I have come across to give you some more ideas:
- We Don't Need No Education on their ever-evolving work plans
- Montessori Trails on a "beginner" work plan
- Montessori Trails on the appropriateness of a work plan for a 6 year old
- Montessori Trails on another style of work plan
- If you missed it, here is a diary of a single work period demonstrating Kal-El's work plan in action