This strategy will help you assign jobs or roles to students in your classroom that can support your teaching and the quality of the learning environment. The purpose of this strategy is to help you think beyond a "job chart" and to use a system of student jobs to support a student-centered classroom culture, giving students more ownership and agency in their learning. Classroom jobs are appropriate at any grade level and for any content area, and their impact can be measured by the level of investment students will show in managing their responsibilities and using them as a platform to advocate for classroom improvement and innovation.
First, create your own list of student jobs that aligns with the your learning culture and your classroom vision. Before using somebody else's list, try to think about jobs that are specific to your classroom culture and your goals.
For example, ask yourself the question, "What is the structure of my class? Where and how do students work?"
If your students often work in small groups with you or an assistant while the rest of the class works on more independent tasks, your classroom job list should support this structure. You might consider jobs like "Tech Support Specialist" or "Math Manipulatives Expert" to support independent and small-group student work.
Once you have come up with an initial list of jobs, ask your class for feedback on these jobs before finalizing the list. Encourage students to provide you with ideas of jobs you are not thinking about but that they might have identified or brainstormed.
Create descriptions for each job. Writing job descriptions may feel like extra work, but the descriptions will make your students more invested in their jobs because they will see your investment in their specific responsibilities. Plus, writing the job responsibilities allows you to define the expectations of each job and ensure that students know what they are signing up for.
Have students apply for the job of their choice. You can ask them to write a cover letter explaining why they think they would be a good candidate for the job. Have students list their 2nd and 3rd choices too, so you can ensure they are assigned they are a job in which they are invested. For lower grades, consider setting up a Flipgrid (see the tech tools section below) for students to record a "job application" video.
Assign student jobs and figure out a fun way to announce and roll out students' first jobs.
Once students have begun their job, continuously monitor how the students perform their duties each day with a simple roster or spreadsheet (see the resources below). Provide students with both positive and constructive feedback. Your tracking will show them how much you appreciate and care.
Consider giving students a weekly or a bi-weekly salary. It does not have to be monetary, but every job deserves recognition. You can use points that can be used for a variety of in-class incentive options.
Hold monthly or quarterly performance review conversations, maybe during lunch or recess, and use these meetings both to give students feedback on how they performed their job overall, but also to gather feedback from them on how the classroom environment and culture could be even better. Flip the script on these conversations and use them as opportunities for students to take even more ownership of the class culture.
Implement student feedback if possible, and start a new cycle of job descriptions, applications, and implementation.
Young students love the way that classroom responsibility makes them feel special.
All of the steps above can be followed with preschool students. However, here are a few tips to ensure your classroom jobs are successful for your youngest students:
Simple job descriptions: Job descriptions should be simple and clear, so that students can easily understand what they need to do. For example, the "Tree Hugger" description might be: Make sure all scraps of paper end up in the recycling bin. See the resources below for a variety of preschool-appropriate classroom job ideas.
Visual reminders: Use an anchor chart or poster to show which student has which job, and provide visual reminders of what that job entails.
Clear procedures: Spend time setting expectations for when and how students do their jobs, and make sure to practice job-doing with students.
When creating the job descriptions for classroom jobs, be sure to keep in mind any students with disabilities. Consider whether any students would benefit from modified or specific job descriptions. For example, a student who has difficulty sitting for long stretches of time might excel in a job that requires moving around the classroom, perhaps tidying up classroom supplies, keeping pencils sharpened, or taking down and putting up chairs at the start and end of the day.