Kata in the Classroom

By Ron Pereira Updated on October 5th, 2018

I recently conducted a complimentary “Kata in the Classroom” workshop for a group of 15 students ranging in age from 7 to 13.

I wasn’t sure what to expect… especially since the age range was quite large.  But, based on the feedback from the kids, and their parents, I feel confident in saying the workshop was a success.  We captured it all on video and intend to produce a short, documentary style, video of how things went.  Stay tuned for that!

All the materials needed to conduct this workshop can be found, for free, at the KataToGrow.com website.  So, if you’re a CI practitioner I highly recommend you consider running your own workshop.  And, to be clear, KiC isn’t only for kids.  I have personally gone through the workshop as a participant and Mike Rother will run this exact workshop 3 times at the AME conference later this month.

My Approach

I had two hours to conduct the workshop which was great since it allowed the kids to do 5 rounds of experiments.  Upon reflection I do feel like I spent a little too much time on the “teaching” side of things.  The kids didn’t really care to hear me lecture… especially once the puzzles came out of the box.  So, the next time I do this I will likely streamline the lecture part a bit more than I did.

I used the exact PowerPoint presentation Mike offers on the KiC website.  I couldn’t see how to improve it so I didn’t try.  I just opened it up and used it as is.  The presentation walks you through the rounds and even includes built in timers which were very convenient.

What I Learned

And while the kids obviously loved putting the puzzle together… I learned a few other things.

First, the kids were quite excited to participate in the coaching sessions.  We had 3 tables of 5 kids so I allowed each table to coach another table after the first few rounds.  My 7-year-old son even got up and rattled off the coaching questions with ease.  He really enjoyed it.

Second, the kids were highly competitive.  The table full of boys wanted to beat the girls (they didn’t).  And while this is probably natural, and OK, I am reflecting on how to make this less of a competition and more about progress towards the target condition each team sets.

Third, I do feel like adding a little more time after each round to reflect on what the team learned from their previous experiment will add value.  Currently, each round is 3 minutes long.  During these 3 minutes the team must “run their experiment” by assembling the puzzle which takes around 20 to 40 seconds.  Then for the rest of the time they plan their next experiment.  I personally feel building in some extra time to reflect on what they learned before planning the next experiment may add value.  Of course this will make things last a little longer so care must be taken.

And, finally, the fourth thing I learned is that we should never underestimate our children.  They are capable of so much.  I was amazed at how quickly they caught on to how the Toyota Kata routines could benefit their lives now and into the future.

I hope to conduct many more of these workshops for other kids… and, yes, grown-ups are also welcome!  In fact, if you want us to come and conduct a similar, or even more involved, Toyota Kata style workshop be sure to contact us.

  1. Mike Rother

    October 7, 2018 - 12:34 pm

    Hi Ron – nice story! The KiC exercise is a starting point that fits in one class period. It’s purpose is primarily to do the following, which the teacher can then build on:

    –> Introduce the 4-step scientific thinking pattern of the Improvement Kata.
    –> Recognize that any idea we have needs to be tested, no matter how certain we might feel about it.
    –> Recognize the role of reflection after an experiment.

    Along these lines, here are links to a 5-minute video and an article, about KiC at an elementary school in Germany:

    –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2StCfNCbQxQ
    –> http://www.tinyurl.com/Flachslanden

    It’s all in German language, but you can nonetheless see lots of their ideas that build on the basic KiC exercise. Like you, Principal Tanja Schleußinger began with the regular KiC puzzle exercise, and then expanded it into several activities for different ages, which all follow the Improvement Kata pattern. Pretty cool.

    – Mike

  2. Mike Byrd

    October 29, 2018 - 2:13 pm

    I have used LEGO’s in a similar class room exercise but mine has been to teach production process/assembly improvement. I really like the Kata approach add the structure. I incorporate the learn curve idea by establishing the baseline with the first assembler without the next two in the room. Then I introduce each new assembler one at a time. Ultimately the teams are to improve the assembly output through breaking down the work, rearranging the assembly components, etc..
    Thank you for the additional structure that your exercise brings to the table.

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