Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

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.

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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.


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.


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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.


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.


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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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. 


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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