Using Kanban in the Classroom

Guest post: Patty Beidleman, Elementary Educator

Many of you may know our next guest blogger, Patty Beidleman, from Twitter where she’s well known in Lean / Kanban community as @topsurf. She’s been a friend and inspiration for us at LeanKit since the early, early days of the company. We’ve been impressed by her passion for improving education through technology and for innovation with Personal Kanban – using both physical and electronic Kanban. She is actively working to export ideas from the IT Lean / Agile world into the education community. And we’ve been proud to help her.

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I have been using Personal Kanban successfully for more than two years now.  I love the simplicity, and the way it flows and changes with you. What I love most about Personal Kanban is that anyone in any situation can use it to be more productive, effective and efficient in his or her work, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or the CEO of a company.  Here are just a few of the ways I have used Personal Kanban:

I use Personal Kanban as an educational tool in my preschool classroom, and my students have benefited greatly from using it.  I set up an ABCs Personal Kanban, and each week the students learn about a letter, write the letter and learn proper use of the letter.  Each week I witnessed the students’ engagement grow. They began to collaborate on the chalk board writing letters, and they compared their task cards on the class Personal Kanban board. Students who were fearful of not doing ‘good’ work were no longer fearful and in fact exerting more effort and thriving. It has been a complete success.  This year I introduced a classroom helper Personal Kanban in the shape of a kite.  The kite has four sections, each one with a task that the student would help out with during our class time on that particular day.  They wear a badge during class and move throughout the day doing the tasks on the kite.  As they complete their tasks, the kite bow with their names moves along the four sections of the kite. If I happen to get sidetracked, they will remind me of the task I might have missed.  The kite is often their first stop when they enter the classroom in the morning to see who will be the class helper for that particular day.  They often work together to complete certain tasks, like dressing our weather bear.  The kite Personal Kanban has been a huge success.

As well as using it in my classroom with my students, I also use it for planning in my classroom from day-to-day and for our monthly-themed projects.  This year, I am also using LeanKit Kanban for my classroom to track the students’ individual progress against several benchmark goals that we evaluate several times during the year.  Having my board has streamlined my abilities and kept everything very organized. I can look immediately at a lane and know exactly what I need to work on with each student. Instead of folders for each student, I have one organized board.  Although I have not utilized it with parents this year, I look forward to implementing this next year: giving each of them access to the kanban board so that they too can track their child’s progress. This way each parent can decide if they want or need to re-enforce what we are working on in class with their child at home.  My goal is to bridge home & school collaboration.

I have used Personal Kanban to improve my daughter’s confidence (she was a competitive swimmer) in the pool; she has used Personal Kanban for school work, to manage her homework, to complete her Confirmation projects. I have used Personal Kanban in my home, to manage landscaping projects, home projects and holidays. I’ve also used it to manage my non-profit and to run meetings more effectively.  By using Personal Kanban in meetings, I’ve ensured that everyone attending not only gets a voice but that their voice gets to be heard.

Personal Kanban is not complicated. You could have just three lanes, ready, working and done. Or your board could have many lanes.  Just as you are an individual, your board is yours for your individual needs. By using Personal Kanban you become the engineer of your work. It gives you accountability, insight, constantly evolves with you, and leads to many discoveries.  It changes with you and it changes you.

A kanban board is not just for companies and corporations to use.  It is for students, teachers, health-care providers, stay-at-home parents and business owners. It is for everyone no matter where they are in their life or what they are doing.  Everyone in any situation can benefit from using Personal Kanban.

Patty Beidleman is a preschool educator dedicated to helping students achieve the best early education through engagement, creativity and organizational skills. She has taught at Charlie Brown Nursery School for more than a decade where she introduced and facilitated Personal Kanban into the classroom. You can read more about Patty’s use of Personal Kanban in her classroom and beyond on her blog: Nothing is Out of Reach. Patty is also the founder of Layers of Love, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing blankets to chemotherapy patients to provide them with comfort & warmth as they go through their treatment.