Okay, I like to make task boxes. A lot.
Every time I am in the Dollar Tree, I think I make another one. I like doing it (and I love any excuse to shop at the dollar store). You can find my directions for making your own Dollar Tree task boxes here.
No Prep Task Boxes
Today I was working with a second year teacher who is due in a few short weeks. She is thrilled to welcome her first child but at the same time she is stressed at the thought of being out of her classroom for 8 weeks.
One of her concerns is teaching the vocational prep class for the first time this year and not having enough stuff in her room to fill the time. Or fill the sub’s time.
Are you in the same boat? Do you need more vocational and work task activities in your classroom to make it work for you and your students? AND are you short on time, energy, or non-baby brain? Well… We got you! Here are 8 Task Boxes that are academic, meet some vocational needs (like assembly, sorting by category, or following multi-step directions), and are totally no prep!
No Prep Task Boxes-English and Language Arts
The Upper-Lower Matching puzzle is a great matching activity that also reinforces letter recognition and upper-lower letter correspondence and I love the 3 piece strips (over a simpler two piece combo). What a great way to attach multiple skills in one activity. Depending on how many letters you make available in the task box, you can really drill down and make it meaningful for your students.
Self Correcting Wooden Puzzle is another great activity. Remember, you don’t need to put all the letters into one task box. Break it up and make it into 3 or more sets. Your students will be working on something highly engaging but also perfectly academic. Vocationally, you’re targeting categorizing and assembly skills. Yeah, great add!
Lakeshore Alphabet Learning Locks are just like an activity I made for my students with real locks. This, however, actually works on letter recognition and matching on top of just dexterity skills and problem solving.
No Prep Task Boxes-Math
So no need for English to have all the fun… Math wants in on the action too! No worries, here are a few task boxes that will support a student as they develop their math skills too.
Learning Resources Counting Cows are so cute! I had one of these back in the day, but they were not nearly as cute as these. I’m from Wisconsin, so maybe cows just hold a special place in my heart. Either way, I’m sure your students will enjoy them too.
Okay. Let’s put the cows out of our heads (still cute). There are Self Correcting Wooden Math Puzzles to match the letter one above. They are equally as sturdy and effective, plus the graphics are appropriate for any age, including secondary classrooms.
This Domino Number Activity is a great way to work on and reinforce number sense for students with that vocational flare. You will love the added use of visuals if you also happen to teach math.
Number Pops… what a great idea! Like I said, I have several task boxes in my classroom, but the students tend to gravitate to certain ones. This is one of those. I have a couple of students who just love, love, love this one! It’s easy to store and great for reinforcing number recognition… and they are Popsicles. Who doesn’t love Popsicles?
Making it More Challenging
Don’t know about you, but there were several students in my Autism Classes with mad skills these last few years. And regular task boxes sometimes bored them. When I added Mental Blox to my class, it was a super hit. I had students who turned into straight engineers. The visual acuity and analytical skills that go into building some of these is amazing. Eventually I had a group of my superstars create their own and take pictures to challenge each other. What a great way to keep it fresh.
This Dive Into Shapes Geometry Set will let you work on a couple of different skills. One of them is order fulfillment or warehouse vocational training when a student gathers the needed materials and puts them in a building set. The other will allow them to actually build the structures and work on sequencing, problem solving, and visual discrimination. What a great activity to add!
Organizing these Nuts and Bolts in sets, sorting the pieces by their criteria, and working on motor skills by assembling the bolts all make for great task box activities. I have made this with real bolts, washers and nuts… but I found I only used them with certain students because they were heavy and also because they would rust when I washed them too much. These plastic ones would have made a better no prep task box for some of my students. Adding it to my shopping cart now. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!
Implementation- ‘Cause I Can Feel the Contractions
When it comes to implementing these new boxes, remember you will have to teach students how to use them properly. You can never plop an activity in front of a student and think they will know exactly how it’s done.
When it comes to which student does which activity, make sure there is choice and voice in the way you assign vocational activities. If you know you want them to do three activities, maybe they have a choice as to which ones. If you know you want them to do a math one and an English one, maybe you code all the math one color (red) and the English ones another (blue). Then they can choose from a red and a blue… you have some control and they have some choice. Maybe you need them to complete a certain kind of activity, like assembly, but students typically choose the sorting activities because they’re easier. You can label them by type: A for Assembly, M for Matching, S for Sorting, and P for Put In. You may have some others in your cadre, like Fine Motor or Stacking and can label them as well.
If you label them both ways, by color/academics and by letter/function, then you could have activities that are Red-A (Math Assembly) or Blue-S (English Sorting). This system will let you get really specific and assign boxes with purpose to match a student’s specific skills and needs. Then, like for the expecting teacher I mentioned above, you can assign a student a couple of letters (like Lucy needs Red-M and Blue-S) and the sub can get boxes for them that are available.
Data becomes another challenge. I found that I was always looking for a couple of specific things when I worked on Vocational Training goals and skills. I was looking for:
- Follows Directions
- Completes Task
- Neat Work Space
- Signals When Finished
- Focused on Task
These things can become the matrix you use for all the task boxes to take grades and determine strengths and needs.
You can be successful with Vocational Task Boxes and Work Systems, especially when there are great no prep task boxes out there for the getting. Once your system is in place, you will find your class can start to run itself!
Remember, Stay Calm and Teach On!