Classroom jobs are a great classroom tool, both to manage transitions in the classroom smoothly, increase time spent in the TL (target language), and to help create a culture that is special to each class. It helps create a bond between the students and brings everyone together as a team. There are many great blog posts about classroom jobs, however these are the jobs that have worked best for me, in an elementary setting. Many of them were inspired by Ben Slavic's work. Some are unique (as far as I know). I've promised to blog about the jobs that work well in my room many times; and have finally found time at the airport on the way back from presenting at the incredible CiMidwest. To save you some time, I am including a free download to my job badges. My students wear these in lanyards around their necks. In previous years I have used props to identify jobs, but for elementary students the props were a big distraction. They are proud to wear the badges, but mess with them less, so this works better for me. Download your copy (if you are a Spanish teacher) here. If any teachers of other languages would like these, let me know, and I can delete the Spanish words and leave them blank so you can write in your own words.
What jobs do I use? Read below for a list and a brief explanation of each job.
Artist - Draws characters or stories as they happen. Can use these pictures for a retell, or add words to them and add them to your FVR library.
Writer - Writes the story in Spanish or in English. Helps me keep track of what is going on in each story.
The watch- tells teacher 5 minutes before the end of the class. I often have so much fun with my students I forget to watch the time.
The boss - Walks around at the end of class and makes sure class is in order, doesn’t clean the mess, tells others to pick up after themselves.
Host- Greets visitors, offers them a comfy place to sit (can kick kids out of the best seats if they say it in the TL (target language) and a glass of water.
Doctor- If someone sneezes, stands up and says 1,2,3 and class says ‘salud’. Escorts kids to the office for injury or illness if necessary.
The door- Answers the door during class and asks for the password if letting people into the class.
Points- adds class points or teacher points for me when I am too far away from my point place.
Props- Brings me props (or retrieves props we throw across the room).
Calendar - Changes calendar date, and helps me with the calendar (older students can lead calendar)
Mini Teacher - Passes out or collects paper , turns off lights, and brings me things from across the room, and chooses two helpers to quickly pass out badge jobs at the start of class. At first I call out the Spanish words and they pass them out. When they have acquired the words they call out the jobs in the TL too.
Designer- If the room does not look good when they enter the classroom, the designer fixes it up (and can pick a friend to help)
Spy- Takes top secret messages from me anywhere in the school they need to go (the office, another teacher) sneaky like... They also "spy" on kids during class and report to me when kids speak English (so I can give myself points). The spy also reports to me when students speak in the TL OUTSIDE of class. So I can give the class points. This is the MOST popular job. It also gets the kids speaking lots of Spanish outside of the class, because they hope the spy will report on them. I don't care how many points my class gets (see here for a link to La Maestra Locas' blog and an explanation of the point system I use).
No English- If this person hears someone speaking English they have to say ‘No English, Spanish Spanish’ in the target language. If they say it before I can get to the board to give myself a point, I cannot give myself any points.
King or Queen- Makes decisions I don’t want to in the story (usually low pressure decisions like where someone lives).
Expert- Makes up details we don’t know in a story (how fast a car is, how far away the sun is, etc.). Whatever they say, we "believe" for the story. For example, if I asked the 'expert' what the fastest car in the world was, and they say 'a school bus', we are going with a super fast school bus for the rest of the story.
Computer Crew (3-4)- When we use computers they are in charge of re-setting computers for the next class, plugging them in (if necessary) and making sure headphones are wrapped.
Sub- Takes the job of any and ALL absent students
The below jobs fall away when students do not need to hear the English anymore.
What? - When we say ‘qué’ (what in Spanish) the “What” person, stands up, shrugs their shoulders and says “What” in the voice of Gato, from El Perro y el Gato. Not very helpful if you are not a Spanish teacher. Perro y Gato video at the bottom of this post in case you haven't seen it.
Who? - Says ‘who who’ like an owl when I say ‘quién’ in the TL
Where? - Looks back and forth quickly and says where, where, in a scared voice (as if looking for a monster) when they hear the word ‘where’ in the TL.
When? - Taps on an imaginary watch, and says ‘when, when’ in an annoyed voice when we say ‘when’ in the TL
How- Says ‘how how’ in a shocked voice (as if they broke their favorite toy) when we say ‘how’ in the TL.
Why? - Raises their hands and says ‘why’ in an anxious voice when we say ‘por qué’
Because- Says ‘because’ in a annoyed voice when we say ‘because’ in the TL.
How much- Makes money sign with fingers when we say ‘how much’ in the TL.
Translator- helps new students or guests in the room
That's it, my favorite jobs. I used to have classroom actors too, but almost all my students want to act, so I have decided to not make it a job, to give more students the spotlight.
Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions!
This is the second time I have helped organize a conference (the first time last year at MittenCi). Even with a great team of people (Grant, Haiyun, Marta and Kelly are incredible); it is a crazy amount of work, exhausting, and a bit consuming. Especially as I am a full time teacher, and a mom to three. However, if I am asked to do it again next year, I know I will say yes in a heartbeat. Why do we say yes to these endeavors over and over and keep coming back?
equity and Inclusivity..
Equity and inclusivity, for our students, and for ourselves. If you have never been to a conference there is nothing quite like it. As language teachers, we are often the only teacher in our school, or part of a small group. Sometimes overlooked, or left to our own devices, it is easy to feel isolated and to lose the bigger vision of our full potential. Especially when you see the benefits to your colleagues of being able to talk to others that teach what they teach every day. When you attend a language conference you realize that you have a whole family of people who are making the journey with you. Even though we can connect on Facebook, there is nothing quite like connecting to other people that are passionate about the same type of teaching you do in person. People who understand your struggles and triumphs. Who can renew and inspire you and encourage you to keep on doing the amazing things you do for your students. Your words, comments, or lesson ideas, may have helped inspired someone you've never met. You may have been inspired by someone that needs to hear that they are making a difference. When we connect with other teachers that share our passions, there is nothing quite like the inspiration it gives you to keep doing what you are doing.
"Don't reinvent the wheel" is a popular saying, but as language teachers, we often have to build our materials and ideas in isolation. Talking to others that teach what you teach, getting new ideas, and figuring out how to fit them into what you already do, is empowering. I never leave a conference without a notebook worth of things I want to try. I often bookmark great ideas on blogs or facebook groups, that I never actually make it back to because I need more details before I proceed. At a conference, I always leave with things I can try immediately. Even last night, after a full day of writing down brilliant ideas; I was sharing favorite Movie Talks with the brilliant Carla Tarini (and re-writing my lesson plans for next week in my head). Walking away from a conference, I never fail to feel inspired and ready to bring the world to my students.
Our brains are wired to see the world as "us" VS "them". This is a part of our ancestral drive to prosper. As hunters and gatherers it was critical to our survival protect our family groups and tribes in order to flourish, and to survive we had to be able to recognize dangers in others that are not part of our own groups. However, we can do better.
Neuroscience shows that when we point out the similarities between ourselves and people who look, talk, or act differently; when we explain the meaning behind cultural practices that may be scary because they are the unknown, our brains start to reframe how we see others. We are no longer "us and them" we are "us and us". We all live on this small, but beautiful rock, out in the middle of space. No matter our countries of origin, our skin colors, our religious, cultural (or even political beliefs) we are all in this TOGETHER. In a time when politicians and the forces that propel our world seem determined to point out our differences, and reinforce the "us VS them" mentality, we have a unique chance and responsibility to make a difference. One student at a time, one day at a time. We can connect our students to people and places that they might never have seen, in ways that we might never have imagined, within our communities, and with the world at large. We have a chance to connect our students to their own full potential and to help them see the beauty and possibility of greatness in others. We have a chance to create future leaders that see the "us" that humanity needs to reach a world that is inclusive and equitable for all. Walking through the halls yesterday, listening to the different languages being spoken, and connecting with new and old faces, all I saw was us and us and us and us. And that is a beautiful thing.
"Building relationships is the single most important thing we can do as teachers." - Bob Patrick, Keynote, CIMidwest2017
We all know that students do best when we personalize lessons to where they are at in their lives. To their own interests, abilities, and journeys. This can be a tricky task, and overwhelming, especially when you first start out in the CI world. Listening to other teachers share their struggles, triumphs and best ideas is the path to the skills needed to personalize what we do for our students. It doesn't matter if it is your first conference, or your 50th, the ideas that you walk away with will advance you farther along the road to a program that can meet each of our students where they are at in the moment. Which is where we need to meet them if we are to help them reach their full potential. I was not able to attend any full sessions as I had confernce responsibilities. However for the sessions I was able to sit in on I learned so much that I can use to open the world to my students. As always, I wish I could have attended ALL the sessions.
In Bob Patrick's session I learned about no stress ways to teach CI and avoid burnout. From dictations, to using a same story in multiple ways. These are important words for teachers to here. In Justin Slocum Bailey's session I found new ways to do PQA that my students will love. Craig's Klein's session had incredible ideas on how to use curiosity and humor to compel student interest in their language learning. From Amy Vanderdeen I learned new ways to increase the size of my FVR (free voluntary reading) library, and from Becky Moulton I learned about the need to mentor others, and how to do so with compassion and grace.
As always, my only true regret at this conference, was not being able to see and talk to everyone. We need a whole week, and sometimes even that is enough. I wish I could have spent time talking to all the attendees, and listening to all the presenters. Whether I learned from you, simply crossed paths in the hall, waved at you across the room, or shared a heartfelt moment of collegiality, thank you for being a part of something incredible. The chance to make our classrooms, and yes even the world at large, an equitable, inclusive, and personally beautiful place for all. Hope to see everyone next year on Sept. 29th, at CiMidwest2018.
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.