Independent Seat Work is Managed and Used When Needed

In a recent data-gathering round of classroom visits at KMS, we found that for a majority of the school day, our students are sitting in their seats. Lecture seating was the highest at 68%, followed by partners or groups at 42%, then independent seatwork at 32%. 

Being that at least one-third of the time our students are asked to independently work on a task at their seat, today’s PCM #11 Independent Seatwork is Managed and Used When Needed is one we should know and care about.

Because independent seatwork takes up a large chunk of instructional time it is important not only to identify effective procedures to manage student behavior, but also to increase academic involvement and ultimately, student success!

Managing independent seatwork well also allows teachers to focus their attention on small groups or individual students who may need more direct instruction, so that the teacher can attend to those students and everyone else still gets what they need to achieve. Today’s blog post will give you a variety of strategies to do just that – and they’ll work for all students regardless of ability level.


Independent Seatwork “Top 10” Tips:

1. Implement Proactive Positive Behavior Supports

  • Set clear expectations for work time (see PCM #9)
  • Give clear directions for the assignment (modify for lower level learners with a graphic organizer)
  • Provide backup assignment/activity for early finishers

2. Emphasize Goal-Setting and Self-Monitoring

  • Give students time parameters, with a guideline to what should be accomplished intermittently during that time period
  • Encourage self-checking, and self-paced achievement toward a goal
  • Goals can be academic (i.e. accuracy) or behavioral (i.e. on-task)

3. Use Effective Praise and Consequences

  • “Catch them being good” (see PCM #1 and #6)
  • Enforce consequence when appropriate, so poor behavior isn’t allowed to spread to others or grow over time

4. Utilize appropriate timing

  • Limit frequent use of independent seatwork time 
  • Structure class period to intersperse seatwork time at various points throughout the lesson, for shorter blocks at a time (10 – 15 min each)

5. Use strategic seating

  • Change furniture arrangements periodically
  • Pair students near a peer who can assist in assignment correcting

6. Give concise instructions

  • Keep instructions brief and step-by-step, and written (and visible), when possible
  • Before giving instructions, be sure you have the attention of everyone in the room
  • Giving clear instructions reduces students’ need to ask clarifying questions (or give up entirely) because of not knowing what to do

7. Have a procedure for seeking help 

  • Do you want the students to come to your desk? Raise their hand? Give a hand signal? Place a colored cup on their table top? 
  • Decide on your signal and teach it to your students until it becomes a system they use automatically

8. Supply self-correcting materials

  • Answer keys or rubrics help students strive toward meeting the given criteria
  • Peer editors or assignment checkers can also help each other
  • For lower level learners, providing sentence starters, word banks, manipulatives or other accommodations helps them begin their task independently

9. Always be monitoring

  • Actively supervise the students at all times, even while moving throughout the room or working with a small group
  • Circulate frequently, offering assistance, correction, and feedback

10. Help students make connections

  • Address the “Why” of the assignment – because we all want to know the purpose of why we are doing something
  • Make connections to the bigger picture: prior learning, future learning, or personal experience

Hopefully this “Top 10 List” of tips will help you and your class have many productive independent seatwork sessions this year, and in the years to come!

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