Adventures in using Classroom Jobs

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As teachers we see students each day that “aren’t engaged” or that “need something more” to help them get through class. We differentiate lessons up and down to try and engage students – but it isn’t always enough. Sometimes students still choose to be on their phone, doodling, or working on math homework they didn’t finish last night. Classroom Jobs are a GREAT step in a direction towards improving or solving some of these issues!

When I first started Classroom Jobs, I had a “helping the teacher” mindset – I only wanted students to have jobs that made a difference for me or that impacted class. I went into with the mindset that I needed John to care AS MUCH about counting word reps as I did. I needed John to be accurate and pay attention and get it done! But that’s just not my reality. About a year ago I switched the mindset that I use jobs to give students a reason to 1 – pay attention in class, 2 – feel a sense of purpose for being in the room each day, 3 – help me by reducing things that I was going to do anyway (or that I’ll end up doing if the job doesn’t get done), and 4 – to show up to class. This mindset shift helped me feel less stressed when students don’t do their jobs (because some won’t!) and helped me celebrate those that do jobs super well (because it lessens my work load!)

So how do I go about assigning / changing / tracking classroom jobs and their performance? When I first started with classroom jobs, it was recommended to me to give students a card with their job each day (or let students pick the card / job each day). That was immediately overwhelming and too chaotic for me. I switched to weekly jobs. Within a few weeks, that was also too overwhelming for me – plus my students were not learning their job and they weren’t getting them done. So I switched every unit – and that was a good balance. This year, I’m doing monthly jobs. Instead of keeping the cards, I now print of class rosters with their job next to their name each month. As far as assigning jobs – my students submit a Google Form once a month listing the top 3 jobs they want. I do allow repeats. Most students get a Top 3 choice.

What makes students get jobs done? At first, I didn’t have any incentives for getting jobs done… that ended quickly! Then I started giving our school currency every two weeks to those that did their jobs. Now, I give school currency – job payments – twice a month AND job participation / completion is part of student’s participation standard grade each quarter. (This is a school requirement and is a separate grade from their content grade). Now 75% – 80% of students complete their jobs without reminders or whining. Yes – there are students that don’t do them – but adding a class job of “secretary” that marks off who does their job every day has helped a lot with that!

Why use classroom jobs? The two biggest reasons that I continue to do jobs and work to find ways to improve their effectiveness are 1 – student engagement in class, and 2 – helping to lessen my work load. It would AMAZE you the kinds of things that students actually ENJOY and WANT to help with. I have one 8th grader that begs to be our “cleaner” at the end of class each day. It’s awesome – I have a clean floor, and I didn’t have to do it! I also have a student that LOVES straightening up my chair rows – so now I have straight chair rows that I didn’t have to arrange. I have students that pass out papers, collect papers, re shelf library books, hand out clipboards, count word repetitions, change the date, and so on. There are jobs that are more “content” heavy like a question writer or a note taker – and there are jobs for kids that truly like to help like notebook retriever and the attendance reminder.

So how do I start? If you want to start with jobs – I would suggest choosing 2 or 3 things that would be immediately helpful for YOU and then ask for volunteers to do them. Once that feels good, try 2 or 3 things that will be helpful for the CLASS and ask for volunteers. Once you have built up to enough jobs for most (or all!) of your students in a class, announce that everyone will have a job (they can duplicate!). If your school does some type of participation – this is a great way to do that. I keep a spreadsheet where my “secretary” checks off who does their job each day.

What can be a classroom job? LITERALLY ANYTHING. Door opener? Sure. Door closer? Yep. Bell / end of class alerter? Of course. Paper passer, paper collector, pencil sharpener, notebook passer-outer? Perfect. For starting out – choose what will immediately make a difference in your life and help students feel that sense of purpose and engagement. Build from there! Questions about classroom jobs? Drop a comment below or email me at hola@profezulita.com

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