Front page > Power Tools > How-To > Classroom Management > Getting a Headstart: Classroom Chores
Nicole Stockdale, Teachnet Staff

The summer vacation has barely started for most teachers, yet already many feel that they must begin planning for the upcoming year. And, even for those who have a vacation-, school-, or work-free summer, preparing a little at a time is a great way to avoid stress as the end of the summer nears.

There is probably enough work in your classroom to keep you there for hours after you've stopped teaching. And that doesn't even include developing lesson plans or grading papers. You don't have time to dust your computer and sweep your floor everyday. So let your students help! They are usually more than eager. Plus, the added responsibilities for the students are a lesson in themselves.

Of course, there are several ways to develop jobs in you clasroom. Many teachers feel the more jobs, the better. Patti Tucker, Curriculum Resource Teacher at Waldo Community School in Waldo, Florida usually has 25 "job openings" in her classrrom. Many of her jobs require two or three people to fill the positions. For example, you may need a male and female bathroom monitor or line leader. If you don't have enough jobs to cover each student, leave an "on vacation" category. Get students accustomed to looking for their name in a specific job category when they come in the classroom Monday mornings. They will have that job all week. When you rotate for the next week, do it systematically, assuring that every student will have the opportunity to perform each job at least once.

One way of making your classroom jobs more like real life employment is by having students apply for them. You provide them with an adequate job description and requrements. They, in turn, write a letter of application to you, describing their qualifications and why they think they are the best students for the job., You choose the most well-suited applicant, and the deal is closed. However, you can make your students aware that they can be fired for not performing their job adequately. In that case, others could apply for the job opening.

Separate jobs don't necessarily need to be assigned to different people. Instead, you can assign a specific person to do all the jobs for one day. This "Teacher's Pet" -- also called an MVP (Most Valuable Person), POD (Person of the Day), or some variationon of that theme --changes every day. He or she will be line leader, messenger, phone answerer, etc. Also, if more helpers are needed, the Teacher's Pet may choose who they will be. In order to pick the Teacher's Pet of the day, you can go through your class roster alphabetically. Or, try having two coffee cans, one filled with tongue depressers for each of your students' names. Every day, pick out a new name at random from Can 1 and place in Can 2. Once all the names from Can 1 have been used, Can 2 will be ready for the next round. The Teacher's Pet idea is also good because if a student does not perform well or does not like a specific job, tomorrow everyone is free from that assignment, and someone new is posted. In addition, substututes benefit because they have one person to count on all day.

What jobs can you have for your students? Much of that will be determined by your room, school, and students. But here are some ideas. (Notice that jobs are given an "official" name when possible. This will help teach them some new words and add glamour to their jobs -- just like job titles do in the Real World.)

  • Messengers - 1 or 2 students who take anything (notes, attendance, etc.) to another location
  • Teacher Assistants - 1 or 2 students who help in the classroom by gathering materials, passing them out, etc.
  • Line Leader - 1 girl, 1 boy if necessary or desired
  • Line Ender - 1 girl, 1 boy to make sure no one is falling behind
  • Door Holder - Second person in line to hold doors open
  • Bathroom (or "Lavatory") Monitors - 1 girl, 1 boy
  • Census Bureau - 2 students to take attendance (one to check, one to doublecheck)
  • Refuse Collector - Responsible for trash disposal and collection after special art projects, etc.
  • Librarian - 2 students to straighten any book or magazine shelves in the room at the end of the day
  • Horticulturalist - 1 student to water and dust the plants
  • Ictheologist - 1 person to feed (and maybe read to?) the fish
  • Allergy Management - 1 person in charge of dusting at the end of the day
  • Transparency and Board Cleaner - 1 person in charge of cleaning dry erase boards, blackboards, and transparency sheets at the end of the day. Make sure you give them enough time to clean off their hands!

related Teachnet resources: Welcome to the Real World

See Also: What classroom teachers can do to increase attendance.

Classifying Galaxies Lesson Plan
With summer in the United States fast approaching, children across the nation are hoping for long hours of swimming provided by clear skies. Many teachers are looking for clear skies, too, as they start summer units on space and astronomy. One great starting point is this lesson plan, geared for grades 5 - 9, on the Hubble System of Classifying Galaxies. The award-winning site offers a comprehensive look at the shapes of galaxies and how theses shapes are used to determine which galaxy category they belong to. All the materials teachers need are provided online, including the lesson plan, prinatble worksheets and answer keys, and images of galaxies. The hosting site, the Science Museum of Virginia, also offers other astronomy websites for you to check out.

The Education Place Activity Search
The Education Place Activity Search is a searchable database of over 400 original classroom activities and lesson plans for teachers and parents. The activites are intended for grades K-8. Visitors can search for them by both grade level and curriculum area. The areas include Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Art. Not only is this site quick to download, but its fast search engine allows you to get a lot of information in a short amount of time. You can use it to generate new ideas or to add on to existing lesson plans. Either way, this site will be sure to help your lessons run more smoothly.
Traveling Buddies
Mail a stuffed animal to a participating schools as your classroom's Travel Buddy! This site gives you great ideas on how to choose your stuffed animals (school mascot, endangered animals, etc.) and collaborative activities that go along with the project. These include:
  • a geography connection
  • showcasing your community
  • participating in chatroom discussions
  • exchanging memorobilia
  • including a journal
  • comparing activities
  • exchanging photos of your school

This is a great way to learn about other places and cultures, and it's easy to modify to fit your classroom budget. Have fun!

Belize Zoo Pen Pals
The Belize Zoo is spnsoring a pen-pal program that focuses on the animals of Belize and their conservation. Students must meet the following requirements:
  • be 10-14 years of age
  • be attending school
  • be interested in conservation

These students should write about themselves; their school, town, or country; and what they want to know about Belize wildlife. The Belize Zoo will distribute the letters to rural classrooms throughout Belize.

Teachers should send all the letters from their clasroom in one large envelope by postal mail to:

Belize Zoo Pen Pals
Belize Zoo
29 1/2 miles Western Highway
P.O. Box 1787

The Well Connected Educator is sponsoring three contests this month for teachers:
short stories: It Worked for Me
Write about your classroom and win one of many great prizes from The Learning Company SCHOOL/SkillsBank Corporation.
ThinkQuest in my Classroom:
Enter the ThinkQuest in My Classroom Contes and win your choice of Broderbund software.
Teachers' Choice:
Nominate your favorite educational website (hint hint) in Teachers' Choice and get Educast, software that lets you customize information from the internet.
There is also a forum on internet-filtering software. Should schools use them? You can speak your mind. In addition, there are almost 15 new articles for teachers' summer perusal. Check this site out!