Its January and while we all need winter break, those of us who teach in a Moderate to Severe Classroom know coming back from a break can be like the first day of school all over again. There are so many different ways you can keep structure in your classroom without pulling your hair out.
First tip from myself, a fellow Moderate to Severe teacher is to not worry about teaching content the first week back. My students need time to readjust back into their routine and behavior management. This does not mean to just allow free time and choice time all day long. That will only get you further away from your goal! In comes TASK BOXES! These should already be a staple in your classroom and continuing on with your students routine (centers, whole group, etc) using task boxes in place of academic content will remind your students of the classroom routine and structure without stressing them out with tasks that are new and difficult for them!
I like to change up task boxes every year or so, however, my current batch of kids have been with me for the past 2.5 years. In order to avoid a room full of bored kids I took some time over my winter break to assemble some new task boxes, all from…… wait for it….. THE DOLLAR TREE! Everything I bought was under 25$ Now that is what I call a successful shopping trip! So here is how I set up my new task boxes in a couple hours and 3 easy steps!
The dollar tree does offer a ton of bins that you can choose from, BUT I actually do not think those are the best deal. You can find shoebox size plastic boxes sold for under a dollar at Wal-Mart and Target. Have no fear I found a great alternative to house your lovely tasks.
These bins are simply disposable cooking trays that were 3 for 1.00. I just write the task on it and the students match it to their schedule. More about that in the next tip though 🙂
I love these bins because they are large enough to store many materials and they are super lightweight. Plus if they get damaged or ruined its not a big dent in your pocket!
There are so many amazing products on TPT to help set up a structured work task system. Check out these links if you want to buy and assemble one made by these talented TPT authors:
In my classroom, I am lucky to have students who are readers so I choose to do a simple and easy checklist. I just hand write out on a piece of paper the tasks the student needs to complete, the reward they choose, and a space for them to check is off! Simple, easy, and cost me no money at all! You can even laminate it and leave out the task box number and reward so you can save on materials! Easy Peasy!
Now the fun part! What goes in the task boxes! First I want to explain that if you want your students to be independent at this activity then you need to put MASTERED TASKS! I know I know, you want them to work on current IEP goals or Standards….BUT hear me out. Our students are easily frustrated and/or have learned how to avoid hard tasks (tantrums, sitting “pretending to work”, thawing the objects across the room—you name it). So you can prevent this from happening by making it easy for them so they learn how to complete tasks. This will help your students in so many life skills areas and hopefully generalize it at home and in the future in their employment opportunities.
Puzzles are a great way to implant independent work. This puzzle to the right was the most pricey task box I put together because I got 4 at a dollar each. Since I am guessing my students will finish them fairly quickly I will put 2-4 puzzles in each box.
I also bought a simple foam alphabet puzzle. All of my students have mastered putting puzzles together and their letter but this is easy, not stressful, and a great way to sneak fine motor into a task box without the kids knowing!
I love this next task because it can cater to the girls in the classroom. These are pastel pipe cleaners and matching hair clips. This is an amazing fine motor tool and the kids will be busy matching colors. The pipe cleaners were $1.00 and the clips were $1.00 totally 2 bucks total!
This task is a life skill task. It is a simple pack of thank you notes with the envelopes. The students simply have to place the cards in the envelop and they are done! 10 cards came in this pack so it is something that they won’t finish super quick! This task cost a total of $1.00! Simple, easy, and cheap!
I could not pass up these adorable little red cups in the paper products aisle at the Dollar Tree. You can use these in SO many different ways! Counting, letters, sorting! They were well worth the $1.00. I chose to make a task with close pins (also $1.00) to place around the rim of the cup. I don’t even know if I could say this task cost me 2 bucks because I had a ton of cups and clothespins left over to make more task boxes in the future!
Plastic silverware is another great task that you can use to have students practice job tasks. I like to have the students sort them by type OR take one of each and roll them with a napkin like they would see at a restaurant!
Socks are a mother great life skill to work on. I got a pack of 4 socks (with different patterns and colors on each pair) so the students can match and fold. The parents will LOVE this one I promise 🙂
Now that you have taken the time to read about all about task boxes on the cheap you have earned your reward! (Hahaha little token economy humor for ya!) I created a freebie with 4 simple and easy sorting tasks and matching tasks to add to your bins! These are low prep and will keep the kids engaged! I included two simple sorts (emotions and fruit/vegetable) and two higher level sorts (Match the planets and Match the community places)
Lower level tasks
higher level tasks
You can check them out Here