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April 2, 2012 Dutch Auctions Inspire Student Cleaning By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Think about it. After spending a few hours washing and detailing your car, you probably feel a greater sense of pride during your Sunday drive. Not only may you sit taller in it, but perhaps you also reveal your guilty pleasure as you harmonize to “It’s a Sunshine Day” with Greg and Jan Brady. There is something to be said for getting cleaned and organized.

    According to the authors of Quantum Teaching, the environment is a key component to learning. Every detail really counts. I like to say that a clean and organized room is an efficient, happy room. Check out this four-minute video that explains why the environment is so important, and then read on for some quick tricks for sprucing up the room.

    Student Desks

    I like to play a game called Dutch Auction to get the students really digging through their desks. The Dutch Auction works the opposite of a regular auction. Instead of the teacher auctioning off items, the students bring the items to the teacher. This is probably the one time in my class when being a hoarder pays off!

    Dutch Auction Rules

    1. Working in teams of four or five, you may use only items that you find in your desk.
    2. Points may be awarded to the first team to present the requested object. Points may be awarded for creativity. Points may be awarded to all teams. Bonus points can occur at any time. Basically, the teacher can give points for whatever he or she wants!
    3. You may only send ONE representative up with an item per round.

    I let the students spend a few minutes coming up with some clever team names and then the game begins. I say phrases like . . .

    • “I will give one point to the first team that can bring me something neon.”
    • “I will give a point to any team that has a Bazooka cartoon in their desk.”
    • “I will give a point to the team who has the shortest pencil.”
    • “I will award one point to each team that can show me a complete set of crayons in their box.”
    • “A point goes to the first team that can show me a picture of George Washington.”

    After 15 minutes of this, we empty the desks and start justifying the items that can go back into them. It is helpful to have some plastic bags for students to take their treasures (or trash) home.

    Already organized students are put in charge of grabbing a duster or some window cleaner, or organizing the classroom supply drawers.

    Maybe your class needs a more tame form of cleaning inspiration. In that case, read either of these books before your cleaning process. Start a discussion about the importance of organization. 











    Change out those posters. Take the time to put some new posters up in the room. It immediately adds novelty to any wall. Get rid of those tired and worn-out posters. Throw them away NOW! You may be tempted to use them next year, and that could send a negative message.


    Get a few air fresheners. If you regularly use an air freshener, change the scent. It will give the room a new feel.


    It can be overwhelming to clean and organize all the cabinets in your classroom at the end of the year. Try tackling one set of cabinets, shelves, or drawers each week until the end of school starting now. I clean in a fashion similar to that described above. I empty out all the contents of the cabinet and justify each item that goes back into it. If I can’t justify it, I toss it, recycle it, or give it away.


    Happy cleaning!


    2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek’s class.


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