1. Foster Student Buy-In
I do this with a class discussion of – “What should our classroom be…?” I record as students give ideas, adding a picture (remember that this was in August and our 1st grade friends don’t read yet). Using our class brainstorm, I’m able to ask – If this is what our classroom should be, how will we make it happen?
Stemming from this conversation, we are able to agree that in order for our classroom to be neat, ready to learn in, and clean we must all do our part. Student buy-in is critical. Without it, you’ll find yourself nagging and reminding – resenting the whole process.
2. Model Explicitly
Our students all come from different backgrounds and homes, so it’s important to show students exactly what the classroom should look like and a reason behind it. A reason is critical because it provides context for students and helps them make it a priority.
We place clipboards back-to-back, so all 24 fit into the tub. That way when we go to Work on Writing, we don’t have to worry about tripping. We keep the things in our desks stacked neatly, so we don’t have to waste learning time searching for our things.
Our students are amazing human beings and love rising to a challenge.
3. Build the Routine
Although I truly believe students should be responsible for some/most of the straightening in the classroom, I also don’t believe this responsibility should take away from academic learning.I would never want students to miss core learning to sharpen pencils. So, a part of keeping an organized classroom is building the habits and jobs into the daily schedule of the classroom. Just like Angela says in the 40 Hour Work Week, you maximize those “spare” moments in the classroom. Transition times are a fabulous way to channel non-learning time into something productive. (Read more about my classroom organization systems here.)
In our classroom, students fulfill their role after our End of Day Reflection. Students bring their reflection sheet for me to check, pack their backpack, put their backpack on the carpet, and complete their responsibility before partner reading. In these 3-4 minutes before we load the buses, my 1st graders each assume a small role in getting our classroom ready for the next day. This allows me to use my after-school time for planning lessons, making positive phone calls home, and reading writing journals.
4. Release the Power
Now that students feel that keeping a tidy classroom is important, have a model for keeping the classroom organized, and know the routine – it’s time to decide what jobs to release to the students.
Jobs that I release include – straightening clipboards, collecting read-the-room cards, hanging lunch tags in cubbies, returning all behavior clips to green, watering our class plants, stacking classroom technology, straightening our classroom bookshelf, organizing classroom book bins, placing our classroom mailbox slots back in their places, turning off the SMART Board and projector, closing the window, straightening the learning nook in the hallway, picking up trash off of the floor, stacking stools, collecting and setting-out new pencils.
In terms of accomplishing all that needs to be done you have 3 main options – (1) Informally ask students to complete the jobs – different students completing different jobs each day (2) Assign students to certain areas of the classroom (3) Have students apply for the jobs that most interest them.
I use a combination of all three. For the jobs that require extended training (stacking technology, watering the plants, collecting read-the-room cards) students are hired for these positions. (Snag a free classroom job application here.) They are welcome to ask a friend to help them, but I do expect the hire-e to assume the leadership position in the relationship. The other jobs I let students naturally fill but most of the time students find one job and make it their niche. Amy always stacks the stools, Sanders picks up trash off the floor, etc.
5. Get Rid of the Pencils
If there is any procedure that causes me to take deep breaths and want to jump out of my skin, it’s pencil sharpening. It’s loud, takes forever, always happens during guided reading, and it is really my least favorite part of 1st grade. So, to alleviate this stressor, when students have broken or dull pencils they put them tip-down. Then, students grab a new pencil from our drawer. Each Friday I rubber band the pencils and send them home (and a pencil sharpener) with a student.
And like MAGIC they come back sharpened – voila! #winning
This routine alone makes my life so much happier. But friends, Rule #5 is my rule. Just like Ron Clark’s Dorito Rule, you need to pick a #5. What is the one routine/procedure/issue/thing in the classroom that makes you count to 10 and take deep breaths. Whatever it is, find a way to outsource it or build a procedure around that item.
So, friends – are these routines that you’ve built into your daily schedule? If not, how are you planning on giving students more responsibility in caring for the classroom? What’s your Rule #5? I’d love to hear your feedback and ideas!
For other time-saving tricks and tips to save you time and help you maximize your time in the classroom, check out Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Work Week!
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