Help Wanted: Class Jobs That Really Work!
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
In my classroom, student jobs aren’t just about empowering the kids to take ownership and responsibility. Sure, self-esteem and character building are nice side benefits. But in truth, class jobs are mostly about helping ME and making my teaching life more manageable. Sounds pretty selfish, huh? Well, over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s totally impossible to do everything we are expected to in this crazy profession unless we have some help. Fortunately, our job also comes with plenty of able helpers, if recruited and trained properly.
After discussing class jobs with several of my insightful colleagues, I’ve decided that there are many successful approaches to setting up realistic, reliable class jobs. Here’s a “Class Jobs Q&A” based on the questions I used to interview my colleagues and their thoughtful responses. Please share about your must-have class jobs in the comments section below — I’d love to hear how you make class jobs work for you!
How many class jobs do you use in your classroom?
“I start out with only a few jobs the first week of school. Line Leaders and Pledge of Allegiance Captain. I slowly add on a new job or two every week during the first few months. This gives me time to really explain the responsibilities of each job and model how to do the job correctly. By the end of October, I’ve usually introduced the nine or ten jobs we’ll use for the year.” – Lindsey
“I used to have a job for every student, every week. I thought that my first graders would feel left out if they didn’t have a job each week. However, a lot of the jobs felt “fake” because I had to come up with so many. I didn’t really need all of those helpers. After a while, I got the sense that the kids realized their jobs weren’t that important, and they started slacking off on their jobs. Now I only have seven jobs, but these are super important jobs that I really need the students to do well! I think my students realize that I’m counting on them and take their jobs more seriously.” – Mel
How do you assign class jobs?
“My fourth graders can apply for class jobs four times a year, roughly every ten weeks. I have a rigorous job application that students are expected to fill out in complete sentences. Not only does this introduce some life skills about applying for jobs, any excuse for more writing is a good thing. I try to make sure that every student who applies for a job gets a job at least once during the year. Occasionally I have to ‘fire’ employees who aren’t getting their job done.” – Gina
“I rotate jobs every week, so over the course of the month each student will have had a job at least once. During a student’s ‘job week’ I try to assign students the job that I think will be the best fit for their skillset. Not every student is suited for every job. I guess I’m honestly more concerned with students doing their jobs well than about their perceptions of fairness. After all, these are real jobs I need done well.” – Becky
“I pull popsicle sticks with my students’ names out of a cup every two weeks. This way, jobs are randomly assigned and students need to learn to do whatever job is they receive. I put the selected students' sticks in a second “already employed cup” so that they won’t be chosen again until everyone has had a chance to have a job. Then I put all of the sticks back in the original cup and start over.” – Amy
What is your favorite gotta-have-it class job?
“I need my ‘Projector Aide!' The student with this job is an expert at turning on and off the document camera projector. The Projector Aide turns on the projector a minute or two before I need it, so that it has time to warm up. I also count on this student to turn off the projector as soon as we’re done with it to save the incredibly expensive light bulb!” – Alison
“I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, so purely for my own amusement, I have a ‘Night’s Watch.’ These two students are responsible for overseeing transitions, crowd control, and basically any time I want some serious eyes (other than my own) monitoring safety and behavior.” – Josh
“My ‘Homework Monitor’ collects homework each morning and writes down students with missing assignment. Each afternoon, he distributes homework assignments, letters, and graded work into each student’s mailbox. This saves me a ton of time!” – Jody
“It changes by the day, but my current favorite job is the ‘Keeper of the Chargers.' I’m doing Bring Your Own Laptop with my class, meaning that there are over 30 different chargers and assorted laptop accessories floating around my classroom. Plus extension cords and power strips for charging all of the devices. The Keeper of the Chargers makes sure that all power cords are stored in sealed, correctly labeled zip-top bags and are sorted alphabetically into crates by students’ names.” – Alycia
“I agreed to take on a about-to-be-homeless snake as a class pet, even though it totally grosses me out! (What was I thinking?!) I count on a reliable ‘Herpetologist’ to take care of our it, because I’m honestly not having much to do with the snake.” – Ali
Class Jobs: The Bizarre, The Mundane, And The Essential
Let's face it, the only “bad” class jobs are the ones where is would be easier to do the job yourself. I didn’t say “faster” or “more efficient” on purpose. Chances are, you’d be faster and better at doing most of the jobs than your students – but it would still take up precious time when you could be doing anything else a student can’t do for you. So unless it actually makes your life harder or more complicated, I say bring on the jobs. Here’s a wide-ranging smattering of ideas gleaned from around my school. Please add on to the list with your ideas!
Line Leaders – Train your line leaders to freeze if they hear a lot of noise on the class line. This way monitoring appropriate line behavior becomes the Leaders’ job and not yours.
Door Holders – This student holds the door for everyone in the class — a polite and safety-oriented role. It’s also a great job for students who struggle with walking quietly on line. The Door Holder can walk ahead of the line to be ready to hold the door.
Meteorologist – She looks up the weather on the Internet each morning and reports it to the class, along with guidelines about the appropriate clothing needed for recess. In my class, the students calculate the difference between the reported high and low temperature each day as part of our mental math routines.
Environmental Steward – He makes sure that classroom garbage is appropriately sorted for recycling, and turns off the classroom lights whenever we leave the room to save electricity.
Receptionist – This student politely answers the classroom phone for me, relays messages, and holds on the line until I’m available to pick up the phone.
Morning DJ – The DJ chooses a song each morning from the class iPod as background for our unpacking routines. Sometimes the DJ also picks a Pandora channel for background music during independent work times.
Sweepers, Cubby Cleaners, Table-Wipers, etc. – Any job that involves cleaning is for some reason a favorite – and totally essential! The dustpan is a coveted item in my room, and students love using baby wipes to scrub off the tables and any other surface I set them loose upon.
Googler – Anytime, anywhere, anybody has a “Googleable” question in the class, the Googler gets on it and reports back ASAP with the answer. This is helpful in teaching the students about fact-based questions versus critical thinking questions, and it builds all of our general content knowledge.
Library pockets make easy job charts with names on index cards or Popsicle sticks . . .
and pocket charts work well too!
What are your favorite jobs and job tips? Do you have a creative classroom job? Please share your ideas in the comments section below‼!
- One year ago: "Listen Up, Students! Attention Signals That Work"
- Two years ago: "Teaching Math With Picture Books, Part 1"
- Three years ago: "My Top Four Tips for Computing With Kids"
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