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Jun 14, 2012

One of the biggest differentiators between Together Teachers and less-Together Teachers is how they empower their students to take real responsibility in the classroom. Now, before you start picturing Kindergarteners feverishly grading essays with red pens, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about wasting valuable instructional time. And I’m not talking about simply installing a standard Classroom Jobs board.

I’m talking about getting your students to own the tasks that are essential to running your classroom but that do not need to be handled exclusively by you, may occasionally be forgotten by you (insert my former fifth graders saying, “Ms. H-M, we forgot to track table points. . . again!”), and may be learning and confidence-boosting opportunities for your students.

I recently spoke to Dan and Meryl, two great teachers in Hartford and Brooklyn.

Dan told me why he spends the time teaching his students to help run the classroom:

“I delegate for two main reasons.  The primary reason is in order to save time.  These are all things that need to be done and take time to do.  Having scholars help me with them frees me up for other things.  The second reason is that most of my students really like to help.  I think it builds a sense of investment in the class as “their” class, not just MY class, and I also think it’s a relationship builder when I pick them to do a job they desire.”

Meryl speaks to how the students are truly helpful with classroom responsibilities:

“In our classroom, we have table points, but my co-teacher and I seem to forget to give them out. We ‘hired’ a score keeper who keeps the score sheet on a clipboard with them. If we have a table a point, the score keeper knows to just mark it quickly on the score board. The score keeper knows to do their job discreetly so that the other scholars are not interrupted.”

Here are some more examples of tasks Dan and Meryl delegate to their students:

  • Sharpening pencils
  • Distributing graded math work
  • Taking down chairs
  • Attaching tickets to 100% papers
  • Attaching quizzes to weekly newsletters
  • Cutting note cards to be used as flashcards for multiplication/division facts
  • Sorting math manipulatives
  • Prepping all computers for center time
  • Distributing mail

Many of you may be wondering about the logistics behind all of this. How does this all happen? And when? Doesn’t it get chaotic?

I posed these questions to Dan and Meryl, and here’s what they told me:

Q: How do you choose your helpers?

A: I choose the kids based on who wants to do it and who I know either already eats breakfast before school or who is a quick eater who will be able to do the job and get their breakfast eaten.

Q: When do your students complete their tasks? Doesn’t it waste instructional time?

A: They take care of their jobs during entrance and breakfast, from 7:20 to 7:50 AM, during classroom transitions or during lunch.

Q: How do your students complete their jobs accurately? Aren’t you just having to stand over them? 

A: It wasn’t much training really, I just taught them to only put the ticket  (a reward for great work) on if it’s a 100%, and to make sure they are only putting them on the exit slips.

Q: Do you rotate the responsibilities?

A: Not on a set schedule.  I just switch it up occasionally based on demand.  There’s about a half dozen kids who consistently seem to want to do it, so I try to share it between them.  They’re pretty easy going about it.

Together Teacher Reflection Question:

It pays to comment! You’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of The Together Teacher! We will announce the 5 winners on the blog during the week of July 2nd.

In 300 words or less, what are some classroom responsibilities you have delegated to your students? How has this impacted your classroom?