Setting up Clear Expectations for Independent Work Time

Recently, one area that I wanted to improve in my 2nd grade classroom was independent work time. In my schedule, we have 1 hour dedicated to ELA Rotations and another hour dedicated to Math Rotations (We have a long school day). During these rotations, students work independently on three 20-minute activities. However, for 2nd graders, working independently for an extended period of time can prove challenging.

To create an environment that promoted independent work time, I realized the importance of emphasizing clear expectations for students about what their actions should look like during rotations. Several expectations I included were:

  • Showing students how to sit down properly in their desks by explaining they needed to be sitting on their bottoms with their backs straight up. This helped students become more focused because sometimes students would be sitting hunched over which caused them to feel tired after working straight for 15 minutes.
  • Explaining what voice level 0 (or voices off) looks like during independent work time. This meant that even whispering was considered talking.
  • Encouraging students to write down questions on post-it notes and directly deliver the post-it to me rather than having students raise their hands and wait for me to call on them. I noticed that when they raised their hands, they would stop working while they waited for me to answer them. 

Lastly I focused on why we have expectations. By having them talk with each other and then discuss as a whole group why expectations during independent work time was important, it created more buy-in among the students to follow expectations. This helped rotations run more smoothly and motivated students to be voice level 0 so that everyone could learn more.

What were my results?
After reviewing expectations, rotations were notably quieter and more students were focused on their work. In addition it helped me run my own small group more easily because I did not have to stop the small group as often to address behavioral issues with the rest of the class. I also looked at their exit tickets afterwards during rotations and I noticed more of the work was complete.

What are my next steps?
To make sure that I consistently review expectations at the beginning of rotations every day so that students always know what the expectations are. This way it prevents students from saying “I forgot that we were supposed to be sitting down” or making other excuses. In addition, I want to continue explaining the why of independent work time expectations so that students feel more encouraged to follow them.

What did I learn?
I learned that whenever a student did not follow expectations, it was important to address it immediately and then always refer back to the expectation and the why. This helped me minimize the conversation time I spent with students because all I had to say was that we already know what the expectations are and what the consequence would be should they choose to continue not following them or if they changed their behavior.

In addition, if I saw more than 5 students were off, then it was easy for me to reset the class because all I would need to do was just review the expectations quickly then send them back to their desks. This helped me maximize time for learning.



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