This is what our work plans look like as Wednesday afternoon on the third week of school, September 2014. As always, my photos enlarge if you click on them. We used the same style of work plan all last year with great success. The work plans change throughout the year based on the boys' individual needs. These will certainly look a little different in a few months. I have already made changes and reprinted these three times this year. I have to make one small change and reprint them yet one more time. After that, we should be good to go for some time.
I did not come up with this idea on my own. This is my take on one of the work plans Jessica recommended over at Montessori Trails.
Each child's work plan is broken into two sections, daily work and "other" work. At the start of the school year I thought the "other work" would be "weekly" work. One week in I realized we were not close to finishing and I changed that to "every two weeks" work. On my next printing I'm just going to label that section "cycle." As we draw to a close this week I can see that it took my boys three weeks to get through the work. To be clear, that is three weeks, four days of "school" each week, one 3-4 hour uninterrupted work cycle each of those days.
When we begin the work plan, all of the paper clips start out on the left. As they do work in any category they move the paper clip over to the right-hand side. The work plan is set up to give a framework of what I "expect" in a given period of time, but allows the boys to construct their own school day. This work plan looks like it has a lot specified, but each area is just a "category" and there are often countless ways the boys can satisfy the category. So, not only do they choose many of their categories each day, but they choose what type of work to do within the category.
They have even more control. As you can see, each child has two colors of paperclips. The black paperclips are for daily work. The green or blue paperclips are the weekly/cyclical work. They can change the color of the paperclips in the weekly/cyclical section if they wish. For example, the first week of school both boys were super interested in maps so they both changed that paperclip to a black one to indicate that they wanted to do that work every day for a while. They can change that clip back to green or blue any time they wish. The second week Kal-El was very interested in music and also changed the music paperclip to a black one.
At the end of the day, all of the black clips (and several blue) should make their way over to the right-hand side of the work plan. The boys usually "clear" their charts at the end of the day by moving all of the black clips back to the left so it is ready for the next day. Sometimes they run out of time and don't get to a particular "daily" work. When that happens, I ask them not to "clear" their chart at the end of the day. They are required to do those works first the next school day.
As the first week progressed I discovered that, unlike last year, this year the boys (particularly Me Too) really want to move a paperclip every time they do any work. I did mention in a previous post on work journals that the boys' work plans double as a very primitive work journal. I hope you can see how I might interpret these that way. However, not everything possible is on the work plan nor do I want them to feel like their work is limited to categories on a work plan. So, after the first week I added "Kid's Choice" to their daily work as a category. This is by far their FAVORITE category. They spend a lot of time outside of school planning what their "kids choice" activities could be the next day.
Another category you might find interesting is "Mom's Surprise" in the daily category. After I give whatever presentations I have planned for the day I tell the kids that was their "Mom's Surprise" and that they can move that paperclip. In the past few weeks those have been presentations from the KotU geography album, the Waseca Biomes albums, and Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I give many other presentations, but they tend to fall under one of the other categories and the boys prefer to move the corresponding paperclip.
Certain categories in the cyclical section of the work plan have more that one row and more than one paperclip. This allows me to weight the cycle according to my preferences. If I listed each category only once in the cyclical area we probably would finish the work plan in a single week. Hmmm...I'll have to think about that.
Last year's work plans looked very similar. The main differences were a little less daily work and most of the "other" work was only listed once or twice. That work plan was intended to be complete in a week. However, we almost never finished it in a week. I noticed the same works kept "falling off" from week to week which leads to a lack of progression in that area. That is why I decided to extend the time frame for the "other" work and treat it cyclically if necessary.
Our work plans from the 2012/2013 school year were a completely different style. You can read about those in this post: Work Plan 2012/2014.
Jessica is trying to compile different family's work plans over at this link: Work Plans and Journals.
That completes the "how the work plans work" section of this post. The boys are much more involved with their work plans this year than last and you'll see them lying around in many of their work pictures this upcoming week.
What follows is a basic summary of the types of things they are currently doing in each category for those who are interested in that type of thing. If not, stop reading now.
Here is a closer look at Me Too's work plan. His daily categories are as follows:
- bead frame/ stamp game
- Mom's surprise
- kid's choice
- Mom's surprise
- kid's choice
Let me give you an idea of how they fulfill those categories.
Kal-El is currently alternating "multiplication days" and "division days." I had these as separate line items on his original work plan for the year. Likewise, on Me Too's work plan the bead frame and stamp game were separate line items. Here is an image of my first work plan of the new year:
However, I knew even as I was typing up those first work plans that I had way too many line items in the daily category. Too many to leave room for choice. I left it alone for that first week to see what happened and see what the boys' preferences and opinions were. After the first day it was obvious that the best solution was to alternate the stamp game and bead frame work from day to day for Me Too and to alternate multiplication work and division work for Kal-El. You can see that I started writing changes on the work plans and used them that way for a little while prior to retyping and printing.
Multiplication: Kal-El alternates between the checkerboard and flat bead frame for his multiplication work. Soon we will add the elementary bank game to that mix.
Right now, however, Me Too is trying to muscle through the final exercises on the primary finger board (the blank or "bingo" chart) so he pretty much fills about two pages in his multiplication notebook each day doing that. When he wants a break he asks to play a multiplication game, chooses some flashcards, or occasionally asks to do the chart using the iPad app instead of the actual chart. He usually does the whole chart on the iPad each time so I don't really object. He only does about 15 equations each day when he uses the real chart. Soon he will have the option of the elementary "bank game," the large bead frame, or the checkerboard for that category.
Division: Kal-El is working with the racks and tubes.
Bead frame/stamp game: Me Too is working on dynamic subtraction on the small bead frame and dynamic division with the stamp game.
Reading: (Me Too) Right now this is almost always a lesson from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. If I give a presentation from the "word study" section of the albums that would fulfill this category for the day.
Grammar: This is daily work for Kal-El right now and on the cyclical section for Me Too. I have recently revamped our grammar area in the the classroom. Kal-El is rotating among grammar boxes, grammar commands, and logical analysis. Me Too will be as well, but has been doing presentations with me instead of independent work thus far.
The categories in Me Too's cyclical section of the work plan are as follows:
- word problems
Kal-El has all of those categories with one additional category: vocabulary.
Fractions: Both boys are still working through the drawers in our fractions cabinet. They also like to look at the fraction charts or play fractions games (fractions pizzas or fractions dominoes). Kal-El is almost done with the first elementary fractions album (MRD) and will start the second (unlike denominators, etc.,).
Word Problems: Both works from their word problems baskets. Me Too is using the "first grade" level problems and Kal-El is now using third grade level. Me Too finds these to be a breeze. Kal-El always gets the right answer but has trouble writing down the equation he used if it is a division equation because he sees all division equations the way they asked as multiplication in disguise.
Squaring/Cubing: These would be presentations and work from the elementary math album as well as continued work with skip counting.
Geometry: Both boys have avoided geometry so far. Tomorrow that is almost all that's left on their work plan so it will come to a head. Lessons will continue from the elementary geometry albums.
Writing: Both boys work in either his Handwriting Without Tears workbook or from Writing with Ease. It also includes work on the chalkboards, sand tray, and other tactile work. Kal-El has started a cursive iPad app. He has a few more pages in his last HWT book and will start New American Cursive any day now.
Spanish: I work on this with both boys together and I plan to post about it sometime in the future.
Music: These are lessons from the Montessori albums plus whatever tickles my fancy from day to day (music being "my thing" and all). They did a lot of music work last week that I plan to post about.
Spelling: Both boys use All About Spelling.
Vocabulary: Kal-El reads really well but, like any elementary aged child, doesn't know every word there is to know. I found a literature-based program we are trying called Vocabu-Lit. I bought book B for Me Too and Book C for Kal-El. Me Too doesn't really have time in his busy schedule to start yet. Kal-El is on the fence. He likes most of the work. Some of the work involves looking up words in the dictionary and copying the definition. The scope of that is a bit too much for him at this stage. The activities in book B would be perfect for him but he already knew all of the vocabulary words. Book C has just the right amount of "new words" but the activities are geared a bit old for him. We'll see.
Speaking of busy schedules, I am having a VERY difficult time finding time to blog this year. I don't intend to give up, but don't know exactly how I'm going to fit it all together. Please bear with me!