I can’t tell you how many books have been written on procedures and routines. They are basically the bread and butter of the classroom. The truth is, I have enough work to do so, the more work the kids do, the better it is for all of us. This isn’t because I’m lazy, it’s because I know that developmentally my students need to be involved and they need to be given responsibility. This sense of ownership and responsibility is integral to a well run classroom community.
Some procedures are things that are school wide and not negotiable such as entering the building silently and no talking in the hallways. Some procedures I build with students such as a morning routine and closing routine. In my mind I want kids unpacking and getting ready for their day in the morning. Things like hanging up coats, turning in homework and forms, and getting materials ready for their first lesson are of a high priority to me. For my students they want time to chat and get settled into their day, so as we construct a morning routine together we take both their needs and my needs into account and find a way to make it work. We make it concrete, put it on a chart, and hang it up where it can be easily accessed when we need a reminder.
Then there’s the jobs. Anything that takes me away from teaching is something that students can do. I usually have an idea of jobs but I let the students brainstorm, drawing on jobs they’ve had in the past. I’ve done jobs two ways. One is to have students fill out an application and then they keep their job for the quarter. The other is to rotate every month or so. If I rotate, one of the jobs is to rotate the jobs, because I won’t remember to do it. I have jobs for everything from library personal to botanists. There are jobs for organizing every single section of the classroom. I even have a pillow fluffer because I am freakishly neat like that and a squishy pillow makes me nuts, plus it’s a fun job. In a technology oriented classroom I also have a technology team. Sometimes these students do this job year round because they take on a great deal of responsibility and often act as additional teachers in technology related matters. I need to be able to depend on them to address problems as they arise and take responsibility for cleaning and maintaining machines.
I think that you need jobs that work for you but you also need a forum for addressing the quality of those jobs and what work they entail. Sometimes issues are addressed at class meetings but usually I address them with students individually. I always have the last person with the job train the new person.
To help kids remember to do jobs I often list them on morning or afternoon routines or remind them during our weekly cleanup. I devote at least 10 minutes a week, usually on Friday, for a general clean up time. This helps keep the room neat and gives kids time to complete their work. It’s a great procedure for helping students learn responsibility.
There are a wide variety of procedures and routines that can make life easier for everyone. I know that if I start to get frustrated with something it’s usually because I don’t have an established procedure or routine and I’m not communicating with my students clearly. So instead of getting frustrated we talk it out at class meeting and establish something that works for everyone.