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If you are a long time follower of this blog you know that I was a preschool teacher for 11+ years.  Last year I left teaching after relocating to a new area to follow other pursuits.  Over the course of 2 years I had implemented several personal kanban boards in my preschool classes that proved to be very successful.

Yesterday I returned to the preschool where I had taught for over 11 years for a visit and to spend time with my students from last year.  When I entered through those doors again I was immediately inspired.  It was as if I had never left.  As I sat looking around the classroom I began to think about my favorite children’s author – Dr. Seuss and how much I loved when February rolled around and we would spend a few weeks concentrating on his books exclusively, doing crafts pertaining to those books and how much he taught my students through his works.  Then I began to think about the personal kanbans I used to help the students learn and master benchmark goals and how Dr. Seuss paralleled that.  Thus this post was born.  So below are some of Dr. Seuss’ famous quotes and how they work so well with Personal Kanban in the classroom and beyond.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Individual learning. Personal Kanban lends itself perfectly to this.  Each student works at their own pace.  It does not matter where other students are each one is doing their own task in their own time.  They bring their own individuality to their work.  This is what makes You, Youer than You!

THINK! You can think any THINK that you wish….”

Thinking! Yes!  This is what all teachers want, their students to think! Of course.  The beauty of using Personal Kanban is that when the student sees the task, they all may view it in a different way, they may even get to their goal – the completed task – through different means than others.  2+2 does = 4 but there are different ways of getting that value.  It’s important to learn the task at hand but it’s also important to learn that there are different avenues of getting there.

Individual learning

“If you never did, you should.  These things are fun and fun is good.”

F-U-N!  We all want fun.  We all want to enjoy what we are doing.  As a teacher I always wanted to make learning fun.  I wanted to engage my preschoolers fully.  By designing different personal kanbans for the classroom we had many ways to learn and to have fun!

stoplight kidzban

kite kidzban

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

This ties in beautifully with the thinking quote up above.  There in many cases may only be one answer to the task at hand but there are many roads you can choose to get there.  Our classroom ABC’s Personal Kanban showed each student’s journey to completion differently.  Each student interacted with their task cards so differently but each completed the goal.

Individual cards.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

When the students looked at the whole alphabet from A-Z some said, “Oh I’ll never learn all those letters!”  However, when we broke up the overwhelming task for them,  from 26 letters at once to 2 or 3 at a time it became simpler.  Much simpler.  In most cases our students took the lead.  What was once overwhelming and complicated to them ended up being in a word – simple.

Personal Kanban ABC's

“It’s better to know how to learn than to know.”

When we give preschoolers the proper tools at a young age to encourage learning, collaboration and the experience of learning, that is something they carry with them all along on their educational journey.  All students want to do good work.  Laying the foundation at a young age helps facilitate doing their best work.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Visualization is key.  My preschoolers (age 3) were not yet reading but that did not slow them down one bit.  They listened, they engaged with board, they watched other students interact with the board and they learned from them.  They were soon learning and building their own goals by collaborating with other students.

Teaching about Thanksgiving using a Kidzban

Teaching about Thanksgiving using a Kidzban

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

I had a parent say to me that their child was fearful of writing letters.  As the year went on the child was observing the other students getting excited over writing the letters, comparing their work with each other on the board, collaborating on their papers, soon the child was no longer fearful but began to go above and beyond what was expected.  All the student did was to try.

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Retrospect.  I started with ideas.  I put them on a board.  I designed the personal kanbans for the classroom with the intent of them all being successful.  However, not everything works on the first try.  While our personal kanbans were all successful, we certainly made changes on the fly as the year went on.  We had weekly meetings to talk about what was working on the board and what wasn’t, and then we made adjustments.  Having a retrospective talk on a weekly basis was key.  We were able to adapt with our students, continue on a path to fit their educational needs.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Smile.  When I look at each student and what they learned from our classroom Personal Kanbans I can’t help but smile.  The look on each student’s face when they received a sticker or moved a task card over, that smile. Priceless.  Smile because it happened.

Personal Kanban in the classroom

As I read through these quotes it occurred to me that I could relate these quotes to my own personal kanbans that I have used over the past few years. To me Personal Kanban is such a great learning tool because it’s relatable across all lines, something that knows no boundaries.  It is teaching us about ourselves while helping us to learn or do a specific task(s).  I have yet to come across a situation where I have not been able to apply a personal Kanban to help me complete my tasks or achieve my goals.

Interested in learning more?

Follow me on Twitter: topsurf

Want to know more about Personal Kanban?  Visit the Personal Kanban Website.

Want to read an awesome book on Personal Kanban?  Purchase: Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life  by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry
You can view my productivity photos on flickr:

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At the end of February my father went into the hospital for a major surgical procedure. You might remember how I made sure nothing was going to be missed when we went to the surgeon for a consult by using a Personal Kanban to track all of the questions we were looking for the answers to right in my moleskine notebook.

My Moleskine Personal Kanban ready to consult with the surgeon.

The difficulty of aiding my father through all of this is that he lives in another state. This means that I was going to have to be highly organized in order to hold my job, hold my family here and help aid my Mom and Dad in another state all at the (almost) same time. I made arrangements for my job, and managed to organize my family here while I was away by making it a family affair.

Our ‘Kitchen Command Central’ Personal Kanban.

My Father though was going to be a very different story.

My parents have had no previous experience with Personal Kanban. That is until I showed up for the surgeon consult that morning and I opened my notebook. While we were meeting with the surgeon I was asking questions and writing the answers down and doing the same for my parents questions. Afterwards we sat in the waiting room and I went over all the questions and answers with them, they loved how the Personal Kanban had worked. They saw that we had every concern addressed and while my Mom and Dad were still trying to take in the answer from the previous question during the consult, I was writing down the question and answer the surgeon was addressing in real-time. So points they might have missed during our consult we covered completely afterwards in the waiting room. They were impressed.

When it was time for my father to be discharged from the rehab center, I knew it was going to a lot to juggle. Boy was I right. It was overwhelming. There were home healthcare nurse(s), Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Social Workers who would be coming to their home. That was enough to think about but then we were handed the prescriptions. There were 19 in all. That’s right 19 prescriptions. I have to admit, I was not only overwhelmed, I was panicked!

There were two major goals we had and my father had:

  1. His mobility. He needed to regain his strength. He needed to get up and move more and more with each day.
  2. His over all well-being. A big part of this health puzzle was going to be making sure he got all his medicines and all on time.

On the way home my mind was racing. I somehow had to pull all this together and put my Mom at ease, because she was going to be doing most of the work and to put my father at ease by letting him see that little steps in the right direction would lead him to his bigger overall goal of being the healthiest he can be. Helping my Mom and Dad be at ease would in turn help me to be more at ease, especially since I wasn’t going to be able to be there on a daily basis. That all led me to one thought – Personal Kanban.

So I sat down at the dining room table and I began to make a mobility Personal Kanban for my father. I thought if he was able to get up 3 times a day and be mobile (walking or going up and down stairs) this would help him greatly in achieving his goal for overall health. So I set up 3 times a week for a full week.

15 minutes each day 3 times a day.

We knew when he arrived home that stairs were not going to be mastered right away, all we wanted was for him to be mobile as much as he could handle. Stairs would eventually make it into the mix, but we had to patient, and that was understood.

WIP lane and Completed lane

I explained to both my father and my Mom that when he got up his first stop would be the Personal Kanban to move over a sticky note into the WIP lane. After he was up and moving as long as he could handle on his way back to where he wanted to rest he should then move the sticky note into the completed lane. I knew that there would be days that he might not move one sticky note over because he wouldn’t have the strength to exercise, but that was okay. He would be able to in effect grow into this Personal Kanban. Although I knew it was very ambitious to start off with, I had faith and knew he’d eventually grow into it.

Additional Workouts

By adding an additional ‘holding pen’ at the bottom of the ready lane of additional workouts this would be another way to allow him to grow into the Personal Kanban as he became stronger and stronger. If he didn’t get into these additional workouts for a long time, that was fine. I wanted them to be a visual goal for him to reach for.

This is the mobility Personal Kanban all set and ready to go.

Action on the mobility Personal Kanban

Since we set this mobility Personal Kanban up, my father has used it. Although he has not gotten the use out of it that he/we wished for because unfortunately he has been very sick and had several set backs. He has just had a second surgery to correct some complications and will soon be home again and this will be there for him. He has already talked to me about being excited to complete it and have my Mom take a photograph for me. :-D This Personal Kanban is a huge visual motivator for him. Sometimes when people aren’t feeling well and go through a long period of being sick, they can’t see anything positive, this Personal Kanban has shown him visually that even 15 minutes of mobility (something we take for granted) is a positive step forward.

Now that we had tackled the first part of our overall goal, we needed to tackle the second part. After I arrived back at the house with the 19 prescriptions I knew this was Personal Kanban territory. I sat at the table for 2 1/2 hours sorting through all the prescriptions. Putting them together not only for each day of the week but also for the time of each day that they would need to be taken. As they sorted out it was apparent that the medicines were going to have to be done at 4 times each day. Once in the morning, at 12 noon, at 4pm and after dinner in the evening.

I went right to work designing the Medicine Personal Kanban.

Medicine Tracking Personal Kanban

I set it up with all days of the week listed and then the sticky notes each with the time of day the medicines were due. When the proper container (I had set up containers with the day and time on it and the proper medicines inside) was given to my father and he took them then the sticky note from the ‘med times‘ lane was then moved over to the ‘taken‘ lane.

You will note the orange sticky added, on this day he required an additional medicine added to his regimen.

Even when something unexpected popped up, like an additional medicine added to his regimen, my Mom would then add an additional sticky note in the proper area so that the newly added medicine would not be forgotten.

Almost completed, keeping every medicine on track.

You will notice there is no WIP lane on this Personal Kanban, that is because the taking of the medicine is an immediate task, therefore I decided to skip the WIP lane.

Keeping 19 prescriptions in order and given in a timely fashion is a daunting task. This by far has been one of the most successful Personal Kanbans I have ever designed. My Mom has told me repeatedly that she had no clue how she was going to manage all of the medicines he came home with and that this medicine tracker Personal Kanban has been a Godsend for her and my father. It eased her mind and I know it certainly eased my mind knowing that he was getting all the proper medicines at the proper times.

Going in to this experience I knew that health is not an exact science. But this is a lesson that is sometimes hard to grasp. It was very important to remember especially with the mobility Personal Kanban, this was not going to be like any previous one we had used. This board was going to depend on good health. I’ve been using Personal Kanban long enough to fully expect a board to evolve with my needs . I learned so much from the use of this board. Usually I set up a board, sit down and start tackling and moving tasks into the WIP lane and then over to the completed lane and ta-da I am done. This was not the case with our mobility Personal Kanban. There were tasks in the ready lane but sometimes because of ‘health complications‘ those tasks would not be done, but that was okay. We learned that even moving one sticky note over on a particular week was a step in the right direction. Small steps leading the way to a bigger overall healthy goal.

It is very difficult to help aid your family when they are not in the same geographical area that you are in, these two Personal Kanbans have helped my family immensely. I know that they will continue to do so as my father continues to regain his health back and that gives us a little more piece of mind moving forward.

Follow me on twitter: @topsurf

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Want to know more on Personal Kanban? Visit the Personal Kanban website. I highly recommend purchasing the book: Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life by Tonianne DeMaria Barry and Jim Benson.

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If you have been a reader of my blog you know that I implemented an ABC’s Personal Kanban first in the fall of 2009.  However due to circumstances beyond my control (I took a leave of absence due to a family member’s illness) that first try was not seen through the whole year.  When I came back into the classroom in the fall of 2010,  I knew I wanted to make changes to our original board and implement it again to see through the whole year with my students.  And see it through we did.  It was a huge success!

This year I took a position within my school that moved me into a new classroom with younger students where  I implemented more Personal Kanbans with my new 3-year old students that also became very successful.  I was very excited to find out last week that 4 of the Personal Kanbans I have implemented in these two classrooms over the past two years will be included in the curriculum again for next year.  This is so exciting because not only will the students benefit but the teachers will as well.  I have learned just as much as the students have from implementing these and watching them evolve, it has helped us all to become better educators.

I was thrilled when I found out at the end of last year that the Personal Kanbans I implemented in the 4-5 year old classroom would become a part of the curriculum for the next year.  Now that I was no longer in that classroom, I was asked to work closely with the teachers in that room, to help them set it up and continue to monitor and have retrospective meetings throughout the year to track the progress.

We knew we didn’t want to change anything about the set-up of our board, so we kept it basically the same as last year.

Our ABC's PK 2010-11 Version

ABC's PK Version 2011-12

This year we took the kaizen moments we had from last year’s Personal Kanban and implemented them right off the bat at the beginning of the students alphabet learning journey.

  • We did not put their names on the task cards.  Last year we did and then discovered some of the students wanted to write their names in themselves as they were learning to write the letters.  So this year from the start of the use of the Personal kanban we did not put their names.  This resulted in the students learning to write their name even earlier in the school year.

This year just 1/2 way into learning to write the letters, the students were now well practiced at writing their names on their task cards.

  • Last year the parents were very involved and this proved to be the case again this year.  In fact when there were holidays that pushed the ‘normal’ letter learning day off by a day, the parents were asking the teachers if they should make letter task cards up for their children, instead of waiting for them to be sent home from our teachers.
  • From the beginning, there was no student apprehension this year.  The students were very excited for their first try at ‘homework’ – taking their card home and working on their letters for the next day of class.

1/2 way through learning the alphabet not only writing their first name also adding their last name (pixelated out for privacy). Also adding many more practice letters to their card.

  • Last year one thing we learned from our retrospect meetings is that if we doubled the amount of example letters we wrote on the task cards the students would then double their amount of letters they practiced. So by the middle of the alphabet this year the teachers doubled the amount of examples on the cards and once again the students followed suit by writing more letters on their cards.
  • Last year we also were thrilled when we got to the last four letters of the alphabet on our ABC’s Personal Kanban that the students were not only writing their first names but a few were adding their last names.  That was the first year we had ever experienced that.  This year the trend not only continued but it showed up even earlier on several student letter task cards.  This is a big improvement over last year.

Whiteboards, magnetic letters, pictures, all related to learning and writing the alphabet.

  • Last year after implementing the ABC’s Personal Kanban we began to notice during our free playtime at the beginning of each class the students were utilizing the blackboard on a daily basis to practice writing their letters.  We knew they were eager for more.  So this year the teachers planned on bringing out more alphabet related materials during playtime, we were interested to see if this would be embraced by the students this year.  We started to focus on doing this on our letter learning days, and it was so well received that it morphed into being done on each day during free playtime.  The whiteboards (one pictured above with a student practicing writing his letters) were a HUGE hit with all the students this year.

Were there as many kaizen moments with the ABC’s Personal Kanban this year as there was last year?  I would say no.  However there were still kaizen moments throughout the year which will once again help us to evolve the board again for next year to be even better, to help the students become more effective and efficient in their learning of the alphabet. We will take the lessons we’ve learned this year and apply them to the board we set up for next year.  One theme from our students that proved true once again this year is that they all want to shine, they all want to do great work, and they all want to share their success with each other.  This ABC’s Personal Kanban has proven once again this year to be an excellent catalyst in helping our students to thrive in our pre-k classroom.

Next Post coming up this Wednesday:  How my family is using Personal Kanban to help my Dad recover from major surgery.

Follow me on twitter: @topsurf

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Want to know more on Personal Kanban?  Visit the Personal Kanban website.  I highly recommend purchasing the book: Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry.

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When I began this year of school, there was one big idea on my mind all summer that I knew I wanted to see become a reality. I had a few discussions with my school’s director about it, just as when I came to her with the idea for our ABC’s Personal Kanban, she was excited and encouraging.

My online Personal Kanban- combining all areas of my life on one board.

I knew since I began using LeanKit Kanban for my own personal use at home that it would be a great tool for my classroom. If I could keep track of my professional projects, running my non-profit, my family tasks and extracurricular activities all by using LeanKit I knew it was a good fit for the classroom.

This year I wanted to use LeanKit to track my students progress with benchmark goals, have all the information in one place, easily accessible and highly organized. Doing all of this without multiple folders filled with papers was a HUGE plus. No more sitting on the floor the night before parent/teacher conferences with papers and folders spread out all over trying to organize each student’s folder and papers to go over with the parent. This year I have tried to become as green as I could in our classroom, I started all communications through email instead of sending papers home, I sent our monthly newsletters home electronically as well. This would be another way to help aid in the green effort and be a huge time saver as well.

This was my first time using the board purely for classroom use. Therefor my board went through many, many changes. I know what I will start out thinking will work, sometimes when you put the board to task, just doesn’t work how I intended it to work. So as I began to use the board I was constantly re-arranging it to suit my needs. I would set it up, begin to use it, find something not working well for me and then I would shift lanes around. I love how my board evolved with my changing needs as the year went on. I eventually would like to be able to use this board with all my parents having access to it. The parents can see exactly where their child is at in the classroom. Instead of putting the student names on the cards I could assign each child a specific number that way each parent would look for the corresponding number for their child and know exactly what their child is working on. I am excited for the parent/teacher/education collaboration I believe would come from that access.

After I initially set up the board I showed it to several educator and Personal Kanban friends to get their input. I knew this board was not going to be used as a ‘traditional’ Personal Kanban for me. The flow would be totally different from anything I have ever worked in before. When I first set up my board I did so with each student having just one task card. As I began to use the board I noticed right away that this was not going to be effective and so the changes really started to begin.

One of the first board set-ups I tried. It would later evolve into the board pictured below.

I decided I needed many task cards for each student. As the year went on and we moved on to more and more benchmarks I began to add more lanes. I realized rather quickly that each lane needed a card for each student, to track exactly where they were with each particular benchmark.

The 'almost' finally evolved board.

So as each card was added and the student was tested, their results were placed right on the task card and they were put into the proper part of the lane. I decided that each card would not be moved to the completed lane. I thought that would become to confusing for me when I was adding all the final results, therefor I decided I needed just one more lane.

Placeholder lane for all student cards after posted on completed card.

I decided to add one last card for each student that would go into the completed lane. On this card I would post all the benchmark results. As I added each benchmark result on the corresponding student’s card I moved that corresponding benchmark card from the original benchmark lane over to the Placeholder lane.

Once I had every student’s benchmark cards moved over to the Placeholder lane I knew their results were posted on the new card and completed therefor I could put that new card right into the completed lane.

The night before my parent/teacher conferences for the first time in 10 years I was not stressed out. The only task I had left to do was to open up my LeanKit Kanban board and look in the completed lane and make sure one last time that I had every student in that lane with a completed card. That took me less than 5 minutes. For each conference all I had to do was to open up the appropriate student card and read the benchmarks to each parent. Everything I needed was posted on each card.

This set-up worked for me in my pre-k classroom wonderfully. I understand that every classroom is different and has different needs. I wanted to share what I have done this year because my hope is that it gets other educators to begin to think about how they could use LeanKit Kanban to fit their needs in their classroom. It is so customizable the possibilities of use are almost limitless. Educators could use it to track any and all of the projects in their classroom. Taking it even another step forward in your classroom, this would be a great tool to have your students (at all age levels, K-College) use to track their project(s) as well. I am a firm believer that there is not any circumstance to which you can’t apply a Personal Kanban. It aids the learning process in such a positive way by helping students to become more effective and efficient in their work whether working on their own or in a collaborative situation.

My attempt to go green and become organized with much less stress this year in my classroom has been a complete success. :-)

Follow me on twitter @topsurf

Coming up next week - A full wrap-up on this year’s ABC’s Personal Kanban we are using for the 2nd year in a row in the classroom.

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Interested in finding out more about LeanKit Kanban? Visit the LeanKit Kanban website. LeanKit Kanban is also available for mobile use. Check out the iPad/iPhone versions via iTunes.

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For more information on Personal Kanban visit the website. Want to learn more? I highly recommend purchasing the book: Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry.

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This year I started in a new preschool class.  I taught  3 year-old students this year.  I admit I was more than a bit nervous.  After having taught 4-5 year-old students for the past 10 years, I thought it would be a difficult transition for me with younger students.  Going in I knew after the success we had last year in our classroom with the ABC’s Personal Kanban,  I wanted to start that success even earlier with my 3 year-old students to set the stage for the rest of their educational journey.

I did just that, by implementing our stoplight safety kanban, then a Thanksgiving kanban while all year long we all have been flying a kite with a classroom personal kanban with huge success.

However, I discovered very quickly, there was even more room in my classroom for Personal Kanban, on a much more personal level: my own.

My realization started in the summer when I began preparing my classroom for the students arrival on the first day of school.  I was in a new classroom and I had many, many tasks that needed to be completed.

Organizing the classroom

When I first walked into my classroom I was so overwhelmed.  I knew I wanted to re-do a lot to make it warm and inviting for my new students.  I had no clue where even to begin, so I just dove right in. I would start in one part of the classroom and then need something from somewhere else in my classroom, get sidetracked and started on something else.  I decided to curb my problem of starting many tasks and completing none by putting a Personal Kanban right on top of my desk.

Personal Kanban on top of my desk.

It worked out so well that as it became time for my other teachers to come into the classroom to help get the room ready I began to put their tasks right on the Personal Kanban, and my desk ended up becoming  their first stop every morning upon entering the classroom.  It became our classroom command central.  Our tasks went from being sidetracked to completed.

Look at that completed lane!

Once school started and I began to plan and work heavily out of my teacher planning book. This was my teaching ‘bible’ so to speak.  This book came home every night with me and went back to school every morning. I never realized how much prepping I would need to do for each class. There were also items I needed to purchase or find in our art and craft closets. There was just so much to remember to make each class successful.  So I decided to just turn to the next page spread in my book and put a Personal Kanban there.  That way when I was preparing for a day or a week, I just had to turn the page and add the tasks I needed to complete. Whatever I needed to complete before the next class was always right there with me (at home or school) in my planning book.

Teacher Planning Book Personal Kanban

This is something I have continued all year long in my planning book and I couldn’t be happier.  This book has been my constant companion. The book with my Personal Kanban right in it has been a safety net and a  lifesaver for me this year.

My desk Personal Kanban evolved as the year went on.  Once class started we realized it wasn’t going to work out well being at the end of my desk.  My classroom is very busy and many students often gather at my desk and with that,  many items often gather on my desk during our class time.  So I decided to move it right on top of my desk calendar which is further away from other activities on my desk.

Desktop Calendar Personal Kanban

What evolved with this Personal Kanban has been simply incredible.  I would sit at my desk at the end of each day and add what tasks we needed to be done in the classroom at the beginning of the next day.  This worked out wonderfully because while doing this I began to discuss the tasks I was adding with my other teachers and get their input, we often made many changes to our art projects and circle time activities thanks to this collaboration, which was an added bonus. We began to recognize much more clarity. It improved our decisions.  Now everyone was more involved in the decision making process and added real value to our classroom activities.   When we entered the classroom the next day our Personal Kanban was all set and we were ready to dive right in to the day’s activities.

This has been hands down the best year I’ve ever had in the classroom.  There are many positive takeaways I have had this year.   Using Personal Kanban  has made me a better educator. I have realized by being more organized I was able to accomplish so much more with my students and have more quality time to spend, learn and grow right along with them.  After all, that is why I became a teacher.

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Next Post coming this Wednesday: Tracking Student Progress with LeanKit Kanban.

Follow me on twitter- @topsurf

Want more productivity photographs? You can view my collection on flickr.

Have productivity photos you’d like to share with others?  Join the  flickr  Productivity, Kanban, GTD, Lean group and add yours.

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Want to know about Personal Kanban and not sure where to start?  Visit the website.  I highly recommend purchasing the book -Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life by Tonianne DeMaria Barry and Jim Benson.

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I have said it many times before to many, many people, I have yet to come across a situation where I have not been able to apply a Personal Kanban to help me be better organized to sail through a situation, whether it be at home, at work, with my non profit or even with my extended family.  I’ve used countless Personal Kanbans but none as important as the one I made last week.

Recently a situation came up and immediately I thought of using a Personal Kanban, it was vitally important that I did not let anything fall through the cracks.  My father had been battling cancer and for a time he was in remission but recently we have found out that the cancer had returned in another area.  There are many aspects that go into anyone who is battling a disease, and with my family this is no different. There are many variables that need to be taken care of.   With my father’s situation one of those variables is that he is going to need surgery.  Of course every surgery is very important.  There are a lot of unknowns, many questions you have and most often you are meeting the surgeon for the first time.

When all of this came to light with my father I decided to start a new moleskine notebook just for information pertaining to his health and doctor appointments. Being that my parents are in a different state and I would be traveling to most, if not all appointments with them I thought that this would be a good way to have all the important information in one place and at our fingertips when needed.

I knew I was going to go with my parents to the surgery consult, so I began compiling questions for the surgeon.  I had also been collaborating with my sister and my husband for their suggestions and as the questions came in I began to fill up my Personal Kanban for the surgeon consult later in the week.

My Moleskine Personal Kanban filled with questions for the oncologist and surgeon

I set up my moleskine notebook with 4 lanes: one with questions for the oncologist, one for questions for the surgeon, one lane to put the question in when I have asked it and it was being answered and the last lane is titled answered.  I put yellow sticky notes in this lane that way I could put the smaller blue sticky note with the question on it on one of the yellow sticky notes and record the doctor’s answer right next to it.

Later on that week we met with the surgeon to discuss the prospects of surgery and what that procedure would include.  We went into the consult room and got comfortable (as could be) while waiting for doctor.  I opened my purse and took out my moleskine.  I opened it to the pages I had made the Personal Kanban on.  Immediately my Mom looked at me and said “I’m so glad you brought one of those sticky notes things with you do for us today.”  My reply, “I got your back Mom.” :-)

Moleskine Personal Kanban after meeting with the surgeon

I was using this Personal Kanban not only for myself but also for every member of my family.  We all had questions we wanted answers to including my parents. This Personal Kanban insured that nothing fell through the cracks and we got every question answered, every concern was discussed.  When one of my parents or I myself asked a question that hadn’t made it onto my Personal Kanban (unknowns do pop up especially in this type of situation) I simply wrote it in the answered lane as it was asked and answered.  What I have learned when going to doctor appointments is that sometimes you tend to get caught up on the first thing the doctor says to you and then because you are focusing on that first statement you really aren’t listening to the things that follow, that’s why I feel it’s so important to write questions down ahead of time.

We left the consult with the surgeon feeling we had every possible variable explored, and every question we had answered.  A lot of the time when you leave an appointment that is so important you feel so overwhelmed.  There is so much information to be relayed to other members of your family, very important information.  I was never so happy that I had prepared a Personal Kanban, sometimes the phone calls to everyone after the appointment can be so overwhelming, but this time I had all the information on my Personal Kanban which made sure that nothing was forgotten or overlooked.

Yes, Mom and Dad I’ll keep making my Personal Kanbans and I’ll forever have your backs. 

My next post:  Find out how I am using a Personal Kanban in LeanKit Kanban to track my students’ progress in my classroom.

You can check out Personal Kanban by visiting the website. I highly recommend purchasing the book, Personal Kanban Mapping Work/ Navigating Life by Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry.

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Do you ever sit on the weekend and think about what you have coming up in the next week? And when you begin to think about what your children have coming up and your husband, you become overwhelmed. And well, you just don’t want to venture into the week wondering how you are going to keep everything straight and get everything done. This happens to me every weekend. Well, let me re-phrase that, the first part happens to me but I don’t become overwhelmed because I take action instead.

It is no small secret that you can’t do everything yourself. A well oiled machine’s gears only work well with all the parts of the machine when they are well oiled. I like to think that my family works in this way. I believe that we do because we use a Personal Kanban to keep our well-oiled machine running.

Last week, we had an daunting amount going on in our family. I was traveling, my husband was going to be traveling and my daughter was starting practices for her spring sport among other activities she had going on. Immediately I got out the sticky notes. I asked each member of my family what color sticky notes they wanted their tasks to be on. I asked my family members this because I wanted each of them to be able to take one glance at the board and know exactly what each of us is doing at any given time, and I wanted them to be a color that made them happy. :-)

A lot of the time when I am entertaining or making a special recipe or meal, I will make a Personal Kanban right on my kitchen counter.

My kitchen counter Personal Kanban

It’s usually a smaller scale Personal Kanban and is perfect for my use. However, when involving my whole family with a lot of tasks, I need more room and need it to be highly visible where all members of my family can access it.

In the past I have liked to use the refrigerator, but the Post-its wouldn’t stick to the door, so I decided on the cabinet that is most used, the dish cabinet. (No one can eat without going into this cabinet!) :-D

Our family kitchen cabinet Personal Kanban

My husband chose the blue, my daughter the purple and I was the pink color sticky notes. This worked out great because I didn’t need to add names, just what each task was and we all knew immediately whose task it was. I even decided to add the day the task was going on, that way when I filled the ready lane I could put every task up in chronological order, it made it easier to wade through.

An example of our task sticky note.

I set up our family Personal Kanban with three lanes ready, WIP (work in progress) and done. Then I filled up the cabinet doors with the tasks. Sunday came, and we dove right into the week.

By Tuesday we were in a very good flow.

What I love most about doing a family personal kanban is the fact that it involves everyone. While I was away my daughter and husband moved their tasks and kept each other in check. Here’s another thing that I love: it’s like I have a safety net in place, it ensures that we are working together as a family (even if one of us is traveling.) I’m not worried that my daughter won’t get to her activities on time. I know it’s getting accomplished.

Saturday Afternoon

By the end of the week, we had wrapped up almost all the tasks, we were just waiting for my husband to arrive back home from his business trip, so we could enjoy the weekend together as a family.

I have been using family Personal Kanbans since I discovered Personal Kanban, and I am always thrilled that each time I (we) learn and evolve while using them.

My daughter gives her appreciation

Although it didn’t happen on our kitchen cabinet Personal Kanban, in the past my daughter has even shown her happiness on our progress by leaving a little happy face right on the board.

Here are a few take-aways that I have discovered since implementing Personal Kanban in my home with my family.

  • We learn something new about each other with every new board we set up.
  • Our family boards are constantly evolving with each new one we make together.
  • Putting your week on a board and being able to visualize your upcoming tasks somehow gives you a wave of calm.
  • I sleep better at night when I’m traveling knowing my family members have the visual reminders of important tasks that can’t get overlooked.
  • We learn to trust each other more.
  • By using color specific Post-it notes, each of us can glance and immediately know what we need to do at any given moment. This has worked much better for us than all of us using the same color and just putting names on each of the post it notes. That can get very confusing, especially when you have a lot of tasks.
  • By each of us having accountability it adds to a great feeling when the board is complete at the end of the week. It feeds our brain and makes us happy. It’s brain candy!* :-)
  • This is something we work on together as a family all week long. It brings us closer together.
  • Each board is a direct reflection of our family and where we are all at together in our lives.
  • This time it was a kitchen cabinet, next time it might be on a white board, on the bathroom mirror or on our family room coffee table. We are doing what works for us at each unique moment in time. This is what I love most about Personal Kanban, it’s personal.
I highly recommend trying this out with your family, or even on a smaller scale, by making a Personal Kanban just for yourself.

How are you using Personal Kanban? Have you tried it with your family? What is your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, feel free to drop them in the comments below.

Follow me on twitter – @topsurf

Like this post? Want to read more? Check out how I am using Personal Kanban in my classroom by reading this post and this post. Also take a look at other ways I have used Personal Kanban to become more effective and efficient by reading this post.

Coming up next: Find out how I am using a Personal Kanban in LeanKit Kanban to track my students’ progress in my classroom.

*”When you pull that sticky note into DONE, it’s brain candy. This is the full quote taken from the Personal Kanban Mapping Work Navigating Life book.

Intrigued but not sure where to start or need more information? Check out Personal Kanban by visiting the website. I highly recommend purchasing the book, Personal Kanban Mapping Work/ Navigating Life by Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry.

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At the end of last year I got wind that the Educreations app for the iPad had been released.  I was thrilled to hear this, since I sometimes bring my iPad into my preschool classroom for the students to do interactive learning games during our circle time, I thought this would open up a whole new learning experience for my students.  So I of course downloaded it right away that night.  You can grab your FREE download by visiting the iTunes link here.

I had never worked with an interactive white board and was very excited so I wanted to dive in right away.  So what would my first lesson be?  I tried to think of something  that I know that I can teach to someone in (hopefully) under a minute?  So I went to one of my passions Personal Kanban.

Educreations-Interactive Whiteboard iPad app

Very often when I share Personal Kanban for the first time to my friends or colleagues the first thing they say to me is “I don’t know, I think  that might be difficult for me.”  Nothing is farther from the truth.  So I thought what better way to show how easy it is then to explain the technique in under a minute.  Okay, so it’s 1 minute and 3 seconds to be exact! :-D

PLEASE NOTE: After you click the link below to view the video be sure to hit your browser’s back arrow to return to this post. 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/embed/297502/

With Educreations you can also add your own images to teach your lesson. Although my lesson was a very basic example, done very  quickly, without a script, unedited and unrehearsed, you can edit your lesson to get it exactly the way you’d like.  You will need to set up an Educreations profile (it’s a very quick process) where you can choose to add your school if you’d like, set who you want to share your lessons with then you are all ready to go.  At this time there is not yet a public directory to the lessons, but you can view a few excellent examples in their lesson showcase.

The excellent thing about this app, although there’s no doubt it’s great for school use, is that it has endless possibilities for use in any profession.  Anyone who has  a lesson they would like to teach or an example they’d like to show to someone can use this tool effectively.  There are many times when I am explaining an idea, method, or something that is difficult to understand just from an explanation, I believe that  using this application especially in a meeting situation would be so effective in bringing everyone onto the same page.  Being able to visualize leads you learn so much more.

Although my students are very young (3 years old) I want to let them use this to draw anything they want and explain about their drawing while doing it. I also want them to use this to begin to learn how to write their letters and numbers with this application.  I know they will love trying this out especially with the recording integration, the possibilities are endless.

If you haven’t tried it yet, download it, and give it a test run.  I’d love to hear what you think and in what ways you have used it.

You can follow me on Twitter @topsurf

Want to know more about Personal Kanban? Visit the website.  I also highly recommend purchasing the book Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life by Tonianne DeMaria Barry & Jim Benson.

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As many of you who follow this blog might remember, last year I implemented and used with great success an ABC’s Personal Kanban in my preschool classroom.  First time visiting my blog? You can read my Education and Personal Kanban it’s a Win Win Situation post  here.

This year I am in a different classroom with younger preschoolers, 3-year-olds.   I knew when I was moving to this class that it would be a big challenge for me to design a workable kidzban to use in our class. One reason being, it had to be 100% visual.  My students (for the most part) have not learned to read yet.  Seeing the success we had last year with the older students using our ABCs Personal Kanban I knew I wanted to definitely use Personal Kanban in my classroom this year in whatever capacity I could.   So I spent some time this summer designing a few boards that I might be able to use in my classroom.

Design for a Shapes Kidzban

Design for Stoplight Safety Kidzban

Design for a Classroom Jobs Kite Kidzban

These are just a few samples of the designs I made, two of these made it through to my classroom walls.  The stoplight safety kidzban and the kite kidzban. Below are the two final boards on my walls.

The first month of school I wanted to teach my students about being aware of the world around them and the rules of safety when outside playing.  So we focused a bit on stoplight safety.  They knew what a stoplight was but had no idea about its function and what it meant for them when crossing a street with a caregiver.  We first learned about the three colors and what each color stood for.  Then to re-enforce what those colors meant they were each given a colored circle and asked to place them in the correct place on the stoplight  and then tell the other students what that color meant- green safe to go, yellow slow down, proceed with caution, and red, stop.

When we were sure they were confident and  knew all three they then were asked to move their circles to the completed lane.  They had fun watching each other move their circles and if a student was struggling the other students would collaborate with that particular student to help them put their circle in the correct spot.  I heard from quite a few parents, that their child let them know when they went through a yellow light too fast or even through a red light! :-) This safety stoplight kidzban was a big success. It is now an approved part of our curriculum and I will be using it next year.

One thing that I have found after 10+ year of teaching preschoolers is that they absolutely love to help you out in the classroom.  So I knew from when I was assigned this class one of the Personal Kanbans I would design would involve classroom tasks.  I wanted to design something that represented fun, so I decided on ‘flying a kite.’

Here’s how this works: each student has a bow on the tail of the kite.  Everyday we chose the next name on the tail and that person gets to ‘fly the kite’ and essentially the classroom leader for that particular day.  The kite is divided into four sections, each section has a classroom task: flag holder, dressing the classroom weather bear, being the line leader, and ringing the clean-up bell.  The student’s bow moves around to all four tasks as they need to be completed. The student who is the kite flyer for the day also wears a badge, that goes home with them at the end of the day.

Kite Kidzban Student Badge

After all four tasks have been completed the student’s bow is then moved to the completed lane: the space on the wall that has the words- I flew the kite today!  There are few things I really love about how this kite flying Personal Kanban has been working out.

  1. Upon entering the room most students will walk over to check out the kite to see who is going to be the leader each day in our class.  They are learning not only to recognize their name but the names of their classmates.
  2. They have learned their tasks, if I happen to get sidetracked in the classroom doing another task students will come up and ask me, “Is it time for Judy to dress the weather bear yet?”  A lot of times the student who asks me that question isn’t even the one to be the student leader for that particular day.
  3. Group participation, when the student is dressing the weather bear, many other students come over to participate and offer help.  This aids in learning to get along in group situations.
  4. I was absent one day from the classroom about two months ago, the substitute told me that the students let her know about the kite kidzban, how it worked, and what tasks the class leader needed to accomplish.
  5. This is not a traditional kanban board, however it works just like a traditional kanban, there is a ready lane-the tail with the bows, a work in progress lane-the kite sectioned into four tasks, and completed lane-the bows placed under the words I flew the kite today.
  6. This is giving my students the visual of their tasks, the ability to see themselves move around the classroom completing these tasks and the huge confidence of seeing their tasks completed.
  7. The badge that they get to wear when they are the kite flyer-class leader for the day makes them feel important. Upon wearing it home it breeds conversations about what tasks they had to complete.
  8. Every student knows they will get a turn, and they are excited when they see where their bow is placed on the tail and when their turn will be coming up.
  9. It helped to get the students into the ‘groove’ of our classroom and what would be happening during their day.  This is many of my students’ first experience in a structured classroom, and it can be very scary and intimidating the first few weeks. This helped greatly ease their minds and make the experience a positive one.
The kite kidzban has been more successful than I even envisioned.  The students love it.  It will be up on the wall again next year.

One thing that I sometimes find difficult to teach to young preschoolers are holidays.  Not all holidays, believe me they know more than I do about Christmas and Santa Claus! :-)  I found that my students were having a difficult time grasping the Thanksgiving holiday, so I decided that we would design a Thanksgiving Personal Kanban together in class during our circle time.

Teaching about Thanksgiving using a Kidzban

We set up the pilgrims traveling to the United States first, talked about how they would arrive then we talked about what they would need to learn to survive with the Native Americans, how they would grow food, prepare the food, etc.  Then we discussed how their working together made them successful and happy, which brought us to celebrating Thanksgiving.  By doing this kidzban together they learned more from the visual then by me just talking or reading from a book.  They got to place the pictures on the board and we all collaborated on why and how and what we thought they did next.  The students loved working on this board together.  Now they know that Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey. :-)

I am extremely happy with how successful all of these Personal Kanbans have been this year.  Next year I plan to use even more as I begin to feel more comfortable in my new class.  I am constantly taking notes on what areas I could be using a Personal Kanban with my class and am looking forward to bringing that to light next fall.

For those of you who have been following along with the ABCs Personal Kanban we used last year and have been asking me, YES it is being used this year and with BIG success once again.  I have had several meetings with the teachers who are using it this year .  Once again they have had many kaizen moments using it in the classroom.  I will be doing a follow up post on the ABC’s Personal Kanban in a few weeks. :-D

My biggest hope is that I begin to see more and more teachers and educators using Personal Kanban in the their classroom.  I firmly believe from pre-k through college Personal Kanban can be a class game changer and great collaboration tool across the board in every subject.

You can view all my productivity photographs by visiting my flickr productivity collection.

Want to know more about Personal Kanban?  Visit the website.

I highly recommend reading Personal Kanban Mapping Work / Navigating Life by Tonianne DeMaria Barry and Jim Benson.

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In my last blog post – Personal Kanban and the Onion - I stated how much Personal Kanban has changed my life.  I am a firm believer that you can apply Personal Kanban to all aspects of your life, home, work, and play.  It should come as no surprise that when friends tell me how they wish they could be more organized, the first thing I say is “you have to start using Personal Kanban, it will change your life.”  So when I started to work with Jen Straw and her company Last Straw Media, the first order of business was to get her using Personal Kanban.  She is an extremely busy owner of a social media marketing company, while also teaching part-time at the University of Tampa, whose biggest complaint was she needed to be more organized. Today I welcome her as a guest on my blog.  

I’m not the most organized person. Well, let me rephrase that, I have a tendency to keep everything up in my head. I hate lists. Always have. Always will. Making lists squashes my creativity, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

But the problem is when you go from running a TV newsroom to running your own company keeping everything you need to do up in your head, isn’t the most effective technique. Especially when you have freelance employees who aren’t located in the same place as you. One of my friends, Patty who happens to be my assistant suggested I use a Personal Kanban to get focus on the details, get organized and be able to collaborate all in one place.

So shortly after beginning Last Straw Media, she set me up on LeanKit Kanban. I’m not going to lie, I was adverse to the idea at first. It still seemed like a list to me. Did I mention I hate lists? But what I quickly found out, is Personal Kanban isn’t really about lists. Whew!

Making a list just didn't work.

The great part about Personal Kanban, is you can assign tasks to different employees– helping us keep straight who’s responsible for which tasks. It’s not as overwhelming for me because I don’t feel like I’m alone, and as an entrepreneur it’s easy to feel that way. I also love the idea, I can go into each task and write notes– notes for myself, notes for my freelancers. It’s a great way to keep up with the progress of each task and collaborate on ideas that could improve the outcome for our clients.

Personal Kanban is customizable to my company’s needs and to my personal preferences. The way I use it to stay organized is probably very different from other people who use it. In addition to my business, I also teach part-time at the University of Tampa. I can also keep that aspect of my life organized without interfering with the business aspect– something a lot of other organizational methods make more challenging.

Personal Kanban for my business.

Using the Personal Kanban board has also helped me feel like I’m really accomplishing something. I can keep track of what tasks have been completed daily, but I can also see how far I’ve come from month to month. Another amazing benefit is we can each communicate directly through the board, which in turn saves valuable time that can be eaten up with multiple emails, conference calls, etc.

Last Straw Media’s Personal Kanban board also helps keep us all accountable, particularly me. I can set up deadlines on some of the cards, if a task needs to be completed ASAP. And if something has expired, my assistant can ask me hey what happened to that task? Can I help you get it done? That’s a huge benefit to me, a huge Type-A personality, who thinks I can do everything myself.

Of course, it’s still a learning process for me the woman who loathes lists, but adores Post-Its. Did I mention, I love that the cards look like Post-Its? I even color code them with pretty colors for tasks I like to complete, like purple, and my least favorite color, yellow, for tasks I tend dislike doing.

And as each day goes by, I feel like my business is getting more and more organized, without having to waste a lot of time or spend a lot of money. Because Personal Kanban is so customizable it’s great for a start-up business, but I can also see how it will grow with me as my company grows.

~Jen Straw

Owner, Last Straw Media

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Want to learn more about Personal Kanban visit the website.
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