Meaningful Classroom Jobs

Over the years I have changed the way I manage classroom jobs.  First, let me say that I believe classroom jobs are extremely important.  It is critical that students see themselves as meaningful contributors to the class, and it is powerful for them to take on responsibilities.

The “meaningful contributors” part is what motivated my first change.  I have always made sure that every student has a job every day.  In trying to find enough jobs, I had lots of jobs pertaining to the calendar – “date reader,” “month reader,” “weather checker,” etc.  I bought a plant just so someone could water it.  I was literally hunting for jobs.  But the problem was that these jobs were not actually helpful.  It was easier for me to just have volunteers, and the “jobs” made things more difficult.  This was not lost on the kids.  They knew as well as I did, unspoken or not, that their jobs did not matter.  So I changed things up.  I spent some time really considering what I would like help with.  I asked myself what small tasks I spend a lot of time on that I could give to my students.  I found there were quite a few!  Some were as simple as wiping off the snack table or moving the lunch names back to get ready for the next day.  Others were things I could not do on my own – like hold two recess doors open at once!  All of these jobs were immediately more meaningful because they were genuinely helpful.

My next change/tip sprang from that list.  I gave myself permission to have more than one student do the same job.  I have two pencil sharpeners, two lunch count messengers, four  folder managers (that pass out student folders each day.)  The appeal of the job was not at all diminished in this way, but I was able to find more jobs.

Next, I change some jobs as the year goes on.  I always wanted to start the year with all of our jobs, but the reality is that tasks change.  We don’t start the year with a counting jar, but come December we have one.  So in December I need someone to peel off all of the sticky notes from our counting jar wall.  In September we need a recycler (to sift through and organize the recycling bin), but by November the kids all know what can and cannot go in the bin.  I don’t change jobs TOO often, but I think it is ok to change things up when it makes sense.  And, as with everything else, the novelty of the change can be wonderful!

Finally, I have students keep the same job for a full week.  This was huge for me.  For some reason I used to think that kindergartners would get frustrated waiting for a turn for a certain job, so I changed them daily.  I can say, without a doubt, that life is better for everyone now that jobs last for a week!  The kids can actually remember what their jobs are!  They “own” their specific responsibility, and they take pride in it.

These are the jobs I currently have:  2 line leaders, 2 pencil sharpeners, 4 folder managers, pledge leader, cubby checker, locker checker, 2 lunch count messengers, lunch count recorder, lunch name resetter, 2 snack table cleaners, marker monitor, art center manager, 2 door holders, snack warning, kindness recorder, and a substitute.

So there you have it – classroom jobs revised!  What are your favorite meaningful classroom jobs?  How do you help your students know that they are “meaningful contributors” in the class?

8 Responses to Meaningful Classroom Jobs

  1. Viv October 17, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I teach pre k and my children keep their jobs for 2 weeks. They really get to know them that way. The most coveted job is the door opener, as this person open the door for parents at pick up.

  2. Teaching Ace October 17, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Oooh, two weeks! That would be fantastic!

  3. Kathie Glick May 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Do you have a complete list of the jobs you use and/or pictures to go with them that you’d share or sell maybe via TpT?

    Thank you!

    • Karen Langdon May 17, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      I don’t have a solid, definite list. I can put together a list of ideas, but it does vary each year. There are some standards, like door holders and pencil sharpeners. I do change things up each year based on genuine need. For example, one year I had two students on “peanut patrol” because of a severe allergy in the classroom. They helped to check snacks for peanut products (with supervision.) That is not a job this year though. This year I had to create some “bear managers” because my kids were going crazy with the bear manipulatives. They were EVERYWHERE, and the bin kept getting dumped just as the bears were picked up. So I created a job, and only the bear managers deal with cleaning up the bears. The key is to notice real needs, issues, or opportunities in the classroom, and then create jobs. I also change some jobs as the year goes on. For example, we do a counting jar activity in the first half of the year, and that resulted in two jobs. But in the second half of the year, the counting jar gets phased out, and the jobs need to change as well.

      I also highly recommend taking photos and using those for your job labels. Having photos of the actual place in the classroom where the student will do the job makes them much more independent with reading the job chart. It also really helps kids with special needs. Hope this helps!

  4. Kim Beeson August 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    I have a medic. This person helps get bandaids, replenishes the first aid kit ( I use a play doctor’s bad and stock it with band-aids). I also teach the kids “helping hands” whereby they put one hand on one side of the hurt place, the other on the other side and then sends happy thoughts through. This medic also takes the kids who need to go home to the office to call their family. This has really helped tremendously with classroom management. I am alerted if someone is really hurt, but otherwise the kids take care of each other.

    • Karen Langdon September 6, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      I love that idea! It encourages empathy and is truly helpful to the teacher. Thanks for the idea!

  5. Rachel September 10, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    This is my first year as a head teacher. I am teaching nursery school kids, 2-3 years old. Where do you get the materials you used for the job chart, I haven’t made it yet because I want the kids to get more adjusted to just being in school and in a new environment. Plus I’m still adjusting myself to my new position. Thank you so much for your wonderful idea!

    • Karen Langdon September 11, 2014 at 3:26 am #

      Congratulations on the job! There are lots of options for how to create the chart. I have used several. The one I posted about is a bulletin board. It has small envelope pockets on it. I got them at a teachers’ store, and I know you can order them online. I used popsicle sticks and hot glued bits of card stock on to them for the kids’ name sticks. Then I can easily move the sticks from pocket to pocket.

      I decided to take photos of the actual items in our classroom that the kids would be working with for the jobs. So I took a photo of our art center for the art center manager, a photo of our pencil sharpener, etc. I also found some pictures on google images. I printed them on to labels and stuck them on the envelopes.

      For young children you will want simple, clear pictures. Also, don’t hesitate to have more than one child do the same job. You can have three or four crayon organisers, table cleaners, or cubby checkers. They can work together and help one another. I also like to have them keep the same job for a week. They take ownership over it, and also remember it!