Throughout our entire day, students take responsibility for seeing to our classroom’s needs, and they do so without much fanfare or interference by me. They do what needs to be done—without seeking attention for their efforts! Students think for themselves and of one another. They maximize their time-on-task and anticipate what comes next in class. My students’ sense of ownership not only makes our class operate more smoothly, the skills and character they are developing will serve them well as they progress through their school years and beyond. Of course, to get these kinds of results, students must be entrusted with responsibilities. They need to know it takes everyone’s help and participation to successfully run the classroom. Students need to feel needed and relied upon. And they need to know what tasks need to get done each day and week, as well as how to do them. When you set the expectation of student leadership and then provide space and encouragement for them to take control, I know you’ll be impressed at their abilities. You’ll also discover that the more responsibility students are given, the more likely they are to find success. Over time, personal accountability becomes a part of their thinking
CLASSROOM RESPONSIBILITY— Putting Students In Charge
I explain my philosophy that students have equal power as the teacher in the operation of the classroom. I let them know they can do anything I can do (within reason) and they don’t have to be asked or ask permission to step up to the task. My expectation is that they identify what needs to be done, figure out the best way to do it, and then make it happen. I assure them I will provide feedback if they’ve done anything wrong, and I promise not to get upset at their mistakes. I want them to know from the onset that I will be proud of them for taking risks.
it’s time to provide them with opportunities to lead!
Over the years, I have learned something important about assigning jobs to individuals versus sharing responsibilities among the whole class. Creating jobs and assigning tasks to students ensures important jobs get done. Just be sure to keep many (or even most) responsibilities free for everyone to share. If you create jobs for every task, you rob students of countless opportunities to take charge!
COLLABORATIVE RESPONSIBILITY— Working Together for a Better Learning Experience
Collaborative responsibility means all students are expected to notice and complete certain tasks, rather than relying on specific individuals to do them. I want all of my students to develop the ability to identify problems and determine possible solutions.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR COLLABORATIVE RESPONSIBILITY
To some teachers, teaching kids when and how to transition from one activity to the next seems trivial. To me, it’s an important part of teaching my students to understand how to maximize the time that we spend learning in our class. Over time, students learn how many minutes are needed for each transition and begin to call, “Give Me Fives!” when it’s time to transition.
Early in the school year, I tell my students I will be testing their abilities to get started without a teacher
These are opportunities for students to show me that they can make collaborative decisions without conflict and follow their peers’ lead without needing to be in charge.
My students are required to run the entire day without any guidance from me.
ENSURING EVERYONE GETS A CHANCE TO LEAD
Sometimes, creating a “student-led classroom” can turn into a “Becky-run classroom” or an “Anthony-run classroom.” What I mean by that is, sometimes one or two students want to take on all the responsibilities, rush to do all of the collaborative responsibilities, and end up becoming the teacher. This is bad for the student, and it’s bad for the collaborative nature of the classroom!
discuss this phenomenon at a classroom meeting early in the year. The meeting helps prepare students with a course of action if and when student leaders turn into student bosses. I suggest my students use metacognition (thinking about their thinking) to assess and address this issue in themselves before it becomes a problem. To prevent tension between students, I assure my class that student “teachers” won’t be allowed to get out of hand.
USING RITUALS TO ENCOURAGE RESPONSIBILITY
Rituals are activities that follow a similar pattern from day to day and week to week but are motivational in nature and are eagerly anticipated by the students. In contrast, routines follow a similar day-to-day pattern but lack the motivational element.
RITUALS IN ACTION
Using rituals involves students with important processes in our room and keeps me from being consumed by the necessary busywork. Equally important, rituals encourage students to interact with and support one another. It’s a win-win solution!
During each round of Literature Circles, I give my students a digital bookmark with the minimum number of page numbers they need to read in order to stay on schedule. They are allowed to get ahead as a group, but, if they fall behind, they are asked to catch up at home.
DEVELOPING DISCUSSION AND SUMMARY SKILLS
I introduce formal discussions by teaching my students the six signposts as explained in the book Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. Those six signposts are as follows:
1. Contrasts and Contradictions 2. Aha! Moments 3 .Tough Questions 4. Words of the Wiser 5. Again and Again 5. Memory Moments
classroom ritual is REARJMCL (pronounced Rear-ji-mick-el). REARJMCL is our end-of-the-day ritual. It is when we write down our homework, evaluate our day, reflect on the goals we set for ourselves, and set new ones for tomorrow. REARJMCL stands for: • Recap • Evaluate • Announcements • Reset the Room • Do your Jobs • Get your Mail • Stack your Chair • Line Up!
the Recapper writes each assignment on the board, the Google Calendar Kid types it onto our calendar (which is projected onto our board), and the students write it in their Assignment Notebooks. It is a requirement that everyone is silent during Recap because 1) the subject matter is important and 2) the end of the day is when students’ attention spans are at their weakest.
ONE FINAL EXAMPLE
The lesson here is that the operation of a classroom is the responsibility of the collective whole, rather than a specific individual. Setting the expectation that students can and should identify needs—beyond their assigned jobs—and respond appropriately provides them with daily opportunities to step up and lead. And that’s so important!