Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Teaching Students Responsibility with Student Committees

In the past I've had a love/hate relationship with student jobs. I've always loved the idea of jobs in promoting community and interdependence and ensuring that all students feel valued in the classroom. But come Monday morning, between notes, money, taking attendance, weekend stories, homework etc etc changing the jobs chart was always a huge inconvenience and hassle.

I was tinkering with the idea of doing away with jobs and just randomly selecting students to do things. But in order to teach students to be responsible, we have to trust them with responsibilities. Classroom jobs create a sense of community and provide opportunities for students to be responsible and feel valued in a meaningful way - they know that completing their jobs helps them, their classmates and their teacher. 

In the end, I decided to change to Student Committees which offer the same advantages of jobs, without the weekly hassle :)

Student Jobs Committees

How are Committees different? 
Committees can be run however you like, but in my classroom students are assigned a Committee and stay in that committee for a whole term (10 weeks). They don't rotate weekly and, because I have 5 committees (last year 6), each student will not be on every committee during the year. 

Many committee jobs are completed before school officially starts (students enter at about 8.30 and school starts at 8.45am) and in the afternoon during pack-up (the last 5-10mins of the day). For example, as soon as my kids enter, they complete their  morning work (Daily Grammar) and then can read. The Technology Committee however, will start up and log-in all the computers so they are ready for the day. The Student Helpers will often laminate things for me. The Library Committee likes to change the books on display holders. When we pack up in the afternoon, the Technology Committee will shut down the computers. The Organisation Committee will sharpen pencils and do a quick check of tidy-trays and remind their peers to tidy them if needed. The Decorating Committee will put up some work we've done during the day and dust some shelves. What I love about this is that after the first couple of days of teaching their jobs at the start of the year, students start to do them independently and I rarely need to give reminders. 

What I also like about Committees is that there are 5 or 6 students on each one so the responsibilities are shared between the team. We talk a lot about each person doing their fair share for things to run smoothly and that the rest of the class depends on them to do their job properly and regularly. But because 5-6 students are responsible for the jobs, they don't have to do a job everyday.... so the same person isn't stuck getting the tuckshop or signing out sports equipment everyday - it might only be once or twice a week they do that job. It also doesn't matter if a student is absent, there's five other kids ready to do the job. If a kid usually arrives right before the bell and doesn't have time to do morning jobs, they'll generally do more during school and in the afternoon pack up to give the rest of their team a break. Students also learn their jobs really well by learning from each other, so they don't take long to do after a week or two.

My students also know that the jobs listed on the description as only examples - they may be called to do other jobs pertinent to their role at times. 
How to Assign Jobs
You can have students apply for jobs but I usually just mix up their photos (that I place under their Committee description so show which they are assigned to) and randomly apply them or give the photo to the student and have them pick - but stating the maximum of students that can be on each. I like to keep things simple :)

I've created an editable version of my Student Committee posters that you can download for free here.


On a similar note, when I taught Grade 2, I had a job for Liam called the Lippy Locater - I would always leave my chap-stic (lippy!) around the place and could never find it, but Liam the Lippy Locater ALWAYS knew where it was! I've also had Ryan the Roll Reminder because who has time to remember to take attendance?! Do you have any funny job stories?