Year 2 and Our ABC’s Personal Kanban Continues to Thrive in the Classroom

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


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.


Tracking Student Progress with LeanKit Kanban

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.


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.


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.