When you go through the work of implementing something new or revising something you usually use in your classroom it’s so helpful to know why you are doing it. It helps keep you motivated to do the work and learning that are necessary as you start or revise your process. Classroom jobs are not any different.
Why Classroom Jobs are Important
1. Classroom Jobs Teach Responsibility.
The best way to learn responsibility is to have responsibility. Giving students ownership and responsibility for a specific job can help them learn how to complete a task and take pride in a job well done in a hands-on way. Students, especially younger ones find this exciting. They may be more excited about a particular job, but a lot of students like being trusted with responsibility.
2. Classroom Jobs Help the Room Run Smoothly
Teachers have too much to do every day. The school day is full of decision-making and to-dos. Every year the list of tasks and responsibilities gets longer. By giving your students classroom jobs you are lessening your load. Only assign classroom jobs that are helpful to you and your classroom. This makes your classroom jobs meaningful and helpful rather than useless busywork.
3. Classroom Jobs Connect Students to the Real World.
So many classroom jobs are mini versions of real-life jobs. They can learn about tasks and skills they like and don’t like. You can talk about what real-life jobs your classroom jobs are similar to. Students might discover there is a classroom job they really like, and decide to pursue it more. They may read books about it or learn more about the real-world version of the job
4. Classroom Jobs Teach Life Skills
This is one of my favorite parts of classroom jobs. It can be painful at the beginning of the year to teach a student how to empty a trash can, but as an adult, they will thank you because they learned how. I have seen students who don’t know how to throw away their lunch, wipe up spilled water, put papers in a neat pile, or do other basic tasks. They need to be taught.
At my gymnastics club, we had student instructors who were in middle school or high school. Part of their training was cleaning the gym. They had to wash windows and mirrors, clean toilets and surfaces, and vacuum. It was a challenge for many of these kids who had never learned how to do it. But they learned important life skills.
Kids need to learn these skills before they need them on a daily basis. I remember I coached several high school gymnasts who got their license, had a car running on low gas, pulled into the gas station, and then realized they had never learned to pump gas themselves. They had to ask strangers or the cashier to help them.
5. Classroom Jobs Build Community, Interdependence, and Teamwork.
There is so much going on in a classroom all day. Students start to see that when they do their jobs well they help build a community in the classroom that is about working together and helping each other. This idea builds on responsibility and ownership of the classroom too. But it’s important that students learn that the class is a team that works together and needs each other to be successful.
The first day that someone is absent so there is a little hiccup to find the substitute to fill in for the job they start to see how the room works together. When students have to learn to work with one another on the same job they learn teamwork. They also learn that their classroom is their community and they need to do their part in taking care of it. That’s what I tell students who ask why they have jobs.
6. Classroom Jobs Build Problem-Solving Skills
As a student looks at their job there is a lot they will learn while completing the task. That student will have to practice decision-making and reasoning. What part of the task do they need to do first, second and third? Do they need help with anything? How can they figure it out? What is working best? Can they try something different tomorrow to make it work better?
In one of my classrooms, there was the job of homework collector. Many weeks into the school year Jen got the job. She took two post-it notes and wrote “math homework” with an arrow and “spelling homework” with an arrow and started piles with her own papers. She took her morning work out of the way onto a clipboard on her lap and let the class sort the homework for her. Usually, the person doing this job got one giant messy pile on their desk that they had to sort out, but not Jen. She used her decision-making and reasoning skills to make this job easier. And from then on so did the rest of the class.
Classroom Jobs Chart or Display
I have seen classroom job charts that I like and hate. Some systems seem crazy to me, but the most important thing is that it works for the teacher. Here are some key ideas for when you are deciding how to display your classroom jobs.
Can you see the job chart from almost anywhere in the classroom? I have been in classrooms where the display is small or around a corner. The teacher wants the paper passer or teacher helper, but can’t see the chart and suddenly the teacher decides that it’s easier to do the task themselves. This undermines the job system that was laid out for students. Make it visible so it is easier to implement.
A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
Be sure your job chart is neat and organized. Especially in older grades, I’ve seen some sad-looking job charts that are a plain whiteboard that has been poorly erased. I don’t like the way this looks, but I also feel like it sends a message to the students that jobs are not valued in the classroom. I feel like students won’t buy into the value of a job system, so they won’t do their jobs well.
Does it Work?
Job charts need to be functional. If you can’t move names around easily it doesn’t matter how cute it is. I have seen black and white printed charts, a pocket chart with a deck of name cards, popsicle sticks, and clothespins. They all work. Find a style that is functional and has an appealing look to you.
Does it Match or Clash?
If you want to keep your system simple and cheap you can still make your display look awesome. Think about the color pallet of your room. If you don’t have one, pick one. Then buy paper that matches those colors and print or write your job chart pieces on that paper. You can really make your display pop just by changing the color you were going to use. And if students see how much you value it they are more likely to respect and follow it.
How to Assign Classroom Jobs
How you choose to assign classroom jobs is important to decide ahead of time because it needs to be consistent and fair. If you keep changing how you assign jobs it can make this system that is supposed to make your life easier and your classroom run smoothly, into a trainwreck. Pick one and stick with it for at least half the year. Here are three methods.
This method is simple. Students move down the list of jobs. If you have a job, such as vacuum or floor cleaner that is usually two students, the student will have the job twice. This ensures that everyone tries and learns every job. It’s also simple and other than you switching the chart, takes very little time.
I used this method and changed jobs every two weeks. This allowed students to really learn how to do a job. Here is an example of the chart I used. I just moved the names down and printed the chart every two weeks. This was when I was in a 6th-grade room so they were able to handle a smaller, printed job chart.
Deck of Name Cards
This method is quick and simple, but nice because it gives your students some choice about which job they will have. Write all your students’ names on a sentence strip or thick paper. You put all your students’ names in a pile and start with the first card. Let the student pick their job. You go through the deck until everyone has picked. If you have fewer jobs than students then a few people might get to be on vacation from jobs. The important part of this is next time you change jobs put the students who just had a job on the bottom of the pile.
Students really look forward to getting to pick their jobs. We always did this during morning work. (Hint: I always say who’s pick it is and who is on deck so they can be ready with the job they want. It makes the picking process go a lot faster.) We usually switched jobs every week or two weeks because it’s such a quick method.
Application for Classroom Jobs
This is the most time-consuming method, but also teaches a lot of lessons. There are four steps to this process.
1. Explain the different jobs to the class.
This means giving a detailed explanation of your expectations and how to do it. Explain the skills the job requires. Think about this like reading a job description before you apply.
2. Give students time to apply for the job they want.
Really it’s a great idea to have them explain their top three choices or at least tell you their 2nd and 3rd choice because they will not all get their first choice. I have created this job application resource for your convenience. Students should explain why they want the job and why they could be good at it.
3. Interview the students for the job.
This is not really an interview. Tell your students that it is a working interview and that you will be observing them for the next three days to see if they have the required qualities and skills for the job.
4. Assign jobs.
Not every student will get their first choice job. Learning how to get a job or be rejected from it is a truly real-life skill. I have not gotten every job I have applied for. I would be sure to tell students one standout quality that got them the job of their choice. I would also take a few minutes to explain to students why they didn’t get any of the jobs they applied for if that is the case.
If you love the idea of having your students apply for their classroom jobs here is an easy-to-use classroom job application to get you started today. This application takes the work out of getting started and gives you and your students all the benefits of this process.
There is no wrong way to assign classroom jobs. If you take time to consider the jobs you want in your classroom and make sure they’re meaningful and useful, both you and your students will value them. You students will learn so many beyond academics skills from classroom jobs. Take advantage of the extra help and make them useful.