Monday, August 27, 2012

Finding Time

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       In these beginning days of school, teachers begin the lament of “Time, we never have enough time!”  And it’s true, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to talk with all the students, teach all the lessons, evaluate all the projects, respond to all the writing, read all the books, sharpen all the pencils.  How longingly we look at a short few weeks ago—summer!
       I don’t have the answer that will solve every time challenge, but I do want to remind everyone that it’s a good teaching habit to ask this question of yourself:  What task am I doing that students in class could handle just as well?  Another way to look at it is to ask what task can be given away that also might teach students a new skill?  It’s a conversation with yourself or your team of colleagues that may take some of that heavy load off your shoulders.


photo credit: mrmayo via photo pin cc

Here’s a list of the work in my class that students did at the middle school level:
§  a small group created a class scrapbook of the year
§  another group maintained the class blog
§  a group managed a large aquarium.  One year we also had a turtle, which was observed and cared for by one student.
§  students handed back papers that had been evaluated and handed out new written assignments and other work that everyone needed
§  students kept several bins of journals/notebooks in order
§  students straightened and managed the materials shelves (paper, scissors, markers, art supplies, glue, etc.)
§  small groups acted as peer review groups for various tasks
§  everyone had a writing partner that could give advice and help before conferring with me  
§  students took care of the ‘recommended’ book shelf, & created bulletin boards of book responses/reviews, favorites, etc.
§  students planned the special days, like parties, pajama days, organizing the food, the games, the decorations and the music

photo credit: The University of Iowa Libraries via photo pin cc
I know this is an ancient photo, but thought it was so cute with them reading together!
     I realize that some might think that only older students are capable of doing these tasks, but the primary and intermediate teachers I know have job charts where tasks are managed like block organization and cleaning up the class, checking that the hall coats and boots area is tidy, bringing in the equipment like balls and jump ropes that are taken out for recess, reading partners, checking questions for field trips, and so on. 

When you are running fast during the day, ask those earlier questions.  The tasks students assume reward them as well as you.  They help each child become an important part of the community, aiding in the class success, a double bonus. 

Please share in the comments what other responsibilities your students have in the class.  




30 comments:

  1. Linda,
    You are right-giving away responsibility for tasks that take teacher time is something that deserves thoughtful consideration. I hope to give my kiddos more responsibility for building and maintaining the community this year. Thanks for sharing your list...since I know have a telephone in my room this year, I am adding "receptionist" to our jobs-they will answer the phone when it rings so I don't have to interrupt what I am doing to answer the phone.

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    1. A school phone. How great that must be. Good idea, Amy.

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  2. Thanks Linda, I'm saving this really extensive list and sharing it with my friends. Our students love having jobs here in Illinois...I guess they do in Colorado too!

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    1. I know many of you do this, but I wanted to share in case there was some new job not thought of yet. It really does save some time. Thanks.

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  3. I completely agree - students can do a lot of the jobs in our classrooms. I have a job chart and their rotate their jobs every two weeks. They do things like checking in the homework, cleaning up the room, organizing the supplies, taking attendance and lunch money to the office, switching the reading spots each day, and more. :)

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    1. I didn't write about the switching because I never did. The students applied for the jobs & that was what they did for the year. Sometimes they jumped in to help others with their work when it was needed. Thanks Katherine!

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  4. We switch jobs, and I have personnel clerks in charge of switching the jobs. I also have a calendar clerk who puts the date and what happened on this day in history on the board. I have a couple of books they can use for reference or of course, the internet. All time favorite job - chime keeper! The ring the chimes one minute before the period begins (to remind everyone to head to their seats) and two minutes before the end of the period (to remind me to wind it up and hush).

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    1. Love the idea of 'personnel clerks', Ramona. I'll have to pass that on. And the chime keeper. I can see how it would be so popular. Thank you!

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  5. Linda, I LOVE that question. And you know, it's a great one for parents, too. (I've been realizing lately the things I do for the kids because it's faster/easier, when I really should hold back and let them do it... so they can get faster/easier!) Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. You are so right about the parent question. It would be a good thing to bring up on parent night! Thanks Irene.

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  6. I'm with Irene on this...this holds true for kids at home, too! Keeping the classroom library in order and handling the check out system is one task that my students do and which saves me so much time. Also, the homework chart updates - I have one of those pocket charts for this, and hand a post it with the day's/week's homework to the first early morning volunteer to translate onto sentence strips. I save myself at least ten minutes at the start of the day there...hooray!!

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    1. Oh, so glad to hear your ideas, too, Tara. Translating onto the board is a timesaver, & I imagine the students love doing! Thanks.

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  7. Giving jobs to the children works fine in elementary too. I can see how giving more responsibilities to the children helps them to see it as "our" classroom not as the teacher's classroom.

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    1. I agree, like 'we're all in this together' kind of attitude. Thanks, Terje.

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  8. Having jobs keeps kids accountable in their learning community. This isn't just the teacher's place but "our" place. Great reminder Linda!

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    1. I don't remember having a job when I was in school, but the books tell of those who cleaned the blackboards, etc., so I guess we did. It is always good to be a part of something, & the job helps with that.

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  9. Love it! I need to remember to pass more to the kids. I'm a resource teacher, so they aren't in the room the whole time. But I do plan to have my students help with the library system this year.

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    1. I imagine there's quite a lot they can help with. I hope you'll share what you come up with later in the year. Thanks, Maria!

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  10. I have always been a believer in jobs, it is definitely important to creating a community. Every student has a job in my classroom that rotates each week. Some jobs seem more fun to some than others but everyone understands that we are all important and valuable. We need each other. Love this post.

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    1. I hope it's saving you time, too,Betsy, really a help that way too.

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  11. Oh my, what a great and thought provoking post! I am guilty of taking on things that drain time and could be done by others - is it a control issues? Maybe a habit to break this year.

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    1. And hopefully it will save some time, & others will gain experience too. Thanks for thinking about it, Juliann.

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  12. There are so many things that we can outsource to students if we trust them to do the job well. And they can with the right scaffolding in the beginning.

    The question you ask is a poignant one!

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    1. I agree that we need to give support to do the tasks well, Stacey, & then let them go, as we do with so many things from the younger to the older. Thank you!

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    2. I agree totally children/students need to learn to become responsible people by doing! I don't have a "typical" classroom since I teach in the Learning Resource Center but trust me anytime I can give a student a job I do and frankly they love doing it! Thanks for sharing.

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    3. Thanks, Lynn. I'm glad to hear from everyone in all situations. I really think it's a big key in our collaboration with students.

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  13. I always find that to be a curious comment now that I have read so much Naomi Shihab Nye: about not having enough 'time.' Whenever I am asked about how I manage my own time and the things that I do, I really don't know how to respond. I suppose the task really is 'making time' - as we shall always find the time to do the things we love to do. I understand the teachers' exhaustion though, and how 'finding time' may be an onerous task.

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I always 'make' time for books & reading, but rarely 'find' time for certain other tasks. It is what we make of it, I suppose. Yet, sometimes we can give away certain tasks in class so we can do other ones. It's a bit of weaving together all the parts, isn't it?

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  14. A few years ago I read an article about giving preschool students "meaningful jobs." I have always had a job chart for things like calendar and weather but now I pass on almost every task to students. Any task that doesn't impose a safety risk I pass on to a helper. Soon my students are anticipating the tasks and offer to do them.

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    1. Sounds wonderful. There are so many things my 3 year old granddaughter can already do & she is so pleased to do them! I love hearing that, Amelia.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!