How to improve behaviour in your classroom with student job cards

How to improve behaviour in your classroom with student job cards for the primary school teacher.

Are your students running you ragged? Are they tuning out of classroom instructions? You ask them to tidy up and they keep chatting. You ask them to stack their chairs and 3 out of 4 don’t listen and you end up doing it yourself. Does this sound familiar?

When I first started teaching Prep (Foundation Year) I would find myself, at the end of the day, tidying up after students. I’d collect pencils, brushes, glue sticks and scissors. I’d stack chairs that were left by students and find the odd journal that never made it home to its correct place. I’d tidy the classroom library and fix broken books. I’d nurture that room and bring it back to life every afternoon.

Okay, they’re just kids, right? They are supposed to be messy. Well no actually, that just doesn’t wash with me. We’re building little humans here and the example you accept sticks with them. I decided I was tired of nagging them to tidy up and so set about creating classroom jobs.

WHY JOBS MATTER IN THE CLASSROOM

Students need ownership of their classroom. I always feel sad when I see overly ‘teacher-decorated' classrooms. Work on the wall should be the students' work, not the teachers. Students need to own this space. It is THEIR classroom. A place they come to learn and spend their days in. Teachers just facilitate the learning. Therefore students should also take ownership of the jobs that need to be done every day. This is more than feeding the class pet in the corner. Students need to understand that jobs equal responsibility. You’re setting the standard for their future interactions in and outside of school.

How to improve behaviour in your classroom with student job cards for the primary school teacher.

WHY IT WORKS

The first few jobs I set up were Chair Monitor, Library Monitor and Journal Manager. As soon as I assigned the jobs to particular students, everybody was upset. “Where’s my job?” several wailed. So I began to brainstorm with the students other jobs such as Pencil Monitor, Technology Manager and Light Monitor but still they wanted more! Meteorologist was added (a great opportunity to build their vocabulary!) whose job it was to write up the weather each day (hello literacy!). Yet still they wanted more! Floor Sweeper, Rubbish Monitor and others were added until everybody in the class had a job.

What surprised me is that these 5-year-olds loved their job so much, they went to great pains to do their job properly. Soon my classroom was running like a well-oiled-machine. My students loved their jobs and I rotated them weekly. I was surprised they didn’t get bored and soon the jobs became part of the classroom culture. 

JOBS WORK IN ALL GRADES

Don’t think for a moment this idea won’t work with older students. Having taught all grade levels, I’ve applied it in every classroom and it has worked like a charm. With older students I like to add one that works particularly well with them - Substitute Teacher. If a student is away from class and missing work, the ‘sub’ collects copies of handouts for them. If you have more than one student away, you can allocate new temporary ‘subs’ so as not to overwhelm students with too much to do. I tell my subs that their job is to hand over the paperwork collected and let the student who was away make a copy of their notes. This is a great opportunity for students to teach each other and helps keep both the student who is away and sub on task!

I can’t recommend classroom jobs enough. They create students ownership in the classroom and improve behaviour by making students accountable. When you set up your classroom next year, consider creating some jobs. You won’t regret it!

How to improve behaviour in your classroom with student job cards for the primary school teacher.

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