I decided to make sure each child always had other assignments to work on while they waited for my help. I also created a "take a number"system, so each child knew their turn for help would come.
- Skim the math lesson for other problems they can do unassisted.
- Do their handwriting assignment for the day.
- Get a jumpstart on their required half-hour of independent reading each day.
Then I made flags. Each flag is just a little paper rectangle taped to a wooden skewer. Because I wanted the flags to be freestanding (leaving the kids’ hands free to keep working!) I stuck the point end of each skewer into a tub of play dough, right through the lid of the tub. This let the flags stand up nicely. I made four, labeled one through four.
During school time, I keep the flags in the center of the table, where four of my kids work. If a kid gets stuck on an assignments while I am occupied, he takes the number-one flag. The second kid gets number two, and so forth. That way, when I look up from helping one kids, I can tell who is next.
It may sound a little impersonal to tell your kids to take a number, but my kids really like the system because they know whose turn is next. Once they’ve grabbed their flag, they can go back to working on another math problem or begin another assignment. This helps them work more efficiently and encourages them to think about a problem just a little longer. Sometimes they even have the problem solved by the time I get there.