You probably already intuitively know this, but classroom jobs matter a lot to kids. They give each kid a sense of belonging, help develop work ethic and teamwork, and create trust between difficult kids and skeptical teachers.
I think classroom jobs are most important for the kids who are terribly at-risk. These kids often NEED an opportunity to find success and feel like their contributions matter.
My daughter had a wonderful kindergarten year and did really well at learning the necessary skills. She made friends. She learned hard lessons about making good choices along the way. She earned little trinkets on Fridays for good behavior all week. But you know what she was often most excited about? The days she got to try out a new classroom job!
Why Classroom Jobs Sometimes Fail
If you’re in your second year of teaching or beyond, you’ve likely fallen on your face at least once with the implementation of a classroom jobs system. Surely I can’t be the only one who bombed in years 1 and 2?!
I have a tendency to make things bigger and grander than they need to be. Here’s why you might have struggled, too.
You created a job you didn’t really need.
When it comes to class jobs, more is NOT merrier. It’s too hard to remember all the jobs, and it’s so often easier to do things yourself. Don’t feel like every student needs a job; they can take turns and learn patience.
Are you curious about how to make classroom management/behavior work well with a flexible seating plan? Read more about my flexible seating classroom management here.
You conveyed a sense of apathy toward the job.
Often, when teachers create too many jobs or feel overwhelmed by maintaining a job system, they accidentally convey apathy towards a specific job. From that point on, you can almost guarantee the following:
- No kid will want the job.
- The one who is assigned the job will do a poor job of it.
- When one job is treated as unimportant, others quickly follow suit.
You didn’t allocate time each day for “work.”
Make sure you factor in a specific time every day for MOST of your jobs. Of course, there are jobs that will require work throughout the day. Many of your cleaning and resetting tasks will happen in the last 15 minutes of the day. Stop what you’re doing, and honor that time of day.
You didn’t allow students to change jobs regularly.
Kids have their whole adult lives to learn about faithfully and dutifully doing a job that has become boring to them (hah)!
You don’t need to train them up for that. Change jobs regularly so that kids don’t become bored with their designated job. Novelty breeds enthusiasm. Enthusiastic kids work harder and faster! Remember, you want this to work for you, too.
You built an unnecessarily complicated system, or put too many jobs into place.
If your system has too many moving parts, or you can’t even easily remember who has each job, it’s probably not going to work for you. You already have so much on your plate!
This job system is supposed to work for YOU, not just the kids. If it doesn’t make your life easier, it’s probably better not to include it in your job list.
With that said, don’t be afraid to assign challenging or important jobs. With proper training at the start of the year, you’d be surprised how quickly kids can learn to do a job!
You didn’t slowly train ALL students on ALL jobs at the start of the year.
At the start of the school year, spotlight no more than one job each day. Go over the job in detail. Kids will be hanging onto every word, because they’ll quickly learn that you’ll assign the job at the end of your mini-lesson.
For example, if you’re going to have a Botanist (plant waterer), take 5 minutes at the end of the first day of school, and go over the job in ridiculous detail. Imagine every mistake a kid might make, and teach them how to avoid it. When you’re done, assign a Botanist. The following day(s), the kids will pay even closer attention, because they’re eager to get assigned a big job!
How to Assign Classroom Jobs
There are lots of different ways that teachers assign jobs, and entire classroom jobs systems you can put into place. You’ll probably be more successful if you keep it simple.
Assigning Cleaning Jobs on the Fly (best for upper elementary)
The method that worked best for me was to keep a running list on the SMART board of all cleaning jobs that needed to be handled at the end of the day. These were typed out in a grid. In the last 15 minutes of class, and at the end of the final mini-lesson, I would quickly jot down (by hand) names for each job and announce them to the group. All kids are trained on all jobs, and they all know how to pitch in!
I like this way because it’s so flexible, and it stays fresh. I can assign the best, most fun cleaning tasks to kids who had a really hard day. If a kid needs a break and some quiet time, I can honor that, too.
Some might find it odd, but I found it easier to manage an on-the-fly (yet predictable) method rather than a super structured system like one of the two below.
I do sometimes like to mix it up, and switch up my jobs for a round of Magic Mess at the end of the day. Do you know how to play it with your class? It’s perfect for when you need a squeaky clean reset. Read more.
I absolutely LOVE this slight modification of my “on-the-fly” method from The Simple Classroom. Here, she hands out clean-up cards at the end of the day, and a DJ selects a song from the approved playlist. Then, kids have until the song ends to finish their daily task. It’s beautifully simple and delightfully low-maintenance!
Another thing she mentions in her post is that she only has one person to help with teacher assistant jobs throughout the day, and everyone else gets a clean up card at the end of the day. I like that, because I often felt frustrated by having to remember who does what job during all my instruction time.
The Rotating Bulletin Board Method
You’re probably familiar with this method of assigning jobs, explained in further detail by Continually Learning. You have a set list of jobs, likely labeled on pockets against a bulletin board. Kids’ names or numbers are printed on popsicle sticks, and they rotate through the pockets every other week (or so).
This method (works GREAT for many teachers and students. It allows frequent job changes, and makes sure that kids don’t get left out. It may be perfect for you!
However, it didn’t work for me. It was a smidge TOO structured for my taste. I also got frustrated by jobs that had to be completed throughout the day.
The “Real Job” Method (and its limitations)
If you search on Pinterest, you might find a bunch of teachers (including one of my favorite teacher bloggers, Playdough to Plato, who swear by the job application method. They require kids to actually apply for jobs and state why they think they’re a good fit for the assignment.
The benefit of this method is that kids get a taste of real world WORK. The application will also include questions that help you ensure kids actually understand what the job requires. Finally, they learn a bit about competition, and the value of quality writing. That’s all very cool!
She even has kids decide together what jobs need to be done each day, rather than creating the job list herself.
I think her system works GREAT for the younger grades. The job application she created (shown below) is FREE!
In the upper grades, I had a hard time with this method. I chose the jobs myself (for all the reasons listed above), and then the kids ended up competing for the jobs by applying for them. I learned that I don’t like my jobs to do this much heavy lifting.
In the classroom, I prefer to keep competition to a minimum and leave it to PE and extracurriculars. It got too complicated for me, because I wanted them to CHANGE jobs frequently, which meant re-applying for jobs. I had a hard time keeping track of who held which jobs.
40 Meaningful Classroom Jobs that Kids Love
- DJ – Chooses the song on Go Noodle to use during brain breaks, or selects from a list of calming audio tracks for independent work. My daughter, who just finished kindergarten, loved this job best!
- Line Leader – This job is important because it sets the walking pace as kids move through the hallways.
- Caboose – this kid is responsible for making sure that doors always close completely (and quietly) behind the line.
- Door Holder – this student is responsible for holding doors as we enter and exit the building. They quickly re-enter the line in the correct order (or relocate to the end of the line) when they are done.
- Calendar Captain – assists with the calendar routine during Morning Meeting.
- Lunch Count Helper – helps organize any lunch count requirements. At our school, since kids can choose between four options, the lunch count helper would count how many of each meal is needed each morning. If lunch tickets are being used, this person might pass out lunch tickets for kids to select on their way out the door.
- Paper Distributor (2) – Our campus still deals in a LOT of a paper flyers. I always need two kids to pass out letters and flyers at the end of the day.
- Techie – This person is usually calm and mature for their age, and can be responsible for putting iPads and Chromebooks on the charging stations without breaking them.
- Substitute – This person fills in for anyone who is currently absent.
- Germ Gel Helper – this person passes out germ gel at snack time and before lunch. They have strict procedures – everyone gets a single pump!
- Germ Warrior – at specific times of day, the germ warrior sprays a single spray of cleaner on everyone’s desk or table.
- Wipe Distributor – this person gives everyone a single paper towel, so that when the germ warrior sprays their table, they can wipe up after themselves.
- Garbage Collector – this person walks around the room (likely after tables are wiped down, a snack is finished, or a paper cutting project is completed), and holds out the trash can so kids can clean their tables.
- Messenger – this person gets to deliver items around the school and to the main office.
- Board Cleaner – this person wipes clean Smart Boards and whiteboards between activities or at the end of the day.
- Menu Copier – this person prints the lunch menu large enough on the whiteboard for the class to see the choices (best for 3rd grade and older).
- Library Organizer/Helper – this student will be the one to reorganize and tidy the classroom library at the end of every day.
- Botanist – this student is responsible for watering the plants in the classroom.
- Pencil Sharpener – this student sharpens all the pencils in the “dull” bucket and relocates them to the “sharp” bucket.
- Cubby Inspector – this friend checks every cubby at the end of the day for mess and helps ensure papers and lunch boxes aren’t left behind.
- Electrician/Power Saver – this kid is responsible for making sure lights are turned off when we leave the classroom.
- Receptionist – if you have a telephone in your classroom (which isn’t terribly common nowadays), you can have a child trained to answer the phone and either convey a short message to you or record a name and phone number for call back.
- The Sick Friend’s Helper – this kid will count the number of absent classmates each morning, write their names on post-it notes, create separate stacks for each, and collect papers on their behalf throughout the day.
- Mystery Friend Observer – this person chooses one mystery person to observe in the hallways. They walk outside the line, with the teacher, and sneakily observe the behavior of the friend they selected. At the end of the walk, if the mystery person behaved well in the hallway, they are awarded a coupon, point or whatever classroom incentive is in use. If the mystery person did not behave well, they are not allowed to say their name aloud. A new mystery friend is chosen next time.
- Recycling Monitor – if your classroom has recycling, this friend posts up near the bins and makes sure only the correct items are deposited into each bin.
- Zookeeper – if you have a class pet, this person is responsible for feeding, watering, etc.
- Sneaker Helper – in the younger grades, this friend is one who can tie shoes quickly for classmates who don’t yet do it independently.
- Materials Manager – this person makes sure that the materials are properly sorted, dried markers are tossed in the trash, and Expo markers have lids on tight.
- Teacher’s Assistant – when a classmate arrives late or comes in from a doctor’s appointment, this person jumps in to help the late person get started on an assignment by showing them the directions. This will mean you can re-explain the instructions 42 times that day instead of 43 😉
- Bathroom Monitors (one of each gender) – before kids enter a bathroom, the monitors do a sweep and inform the teacher of any problems they see, like stalls that have been treated badly. They are responsible for calling into the bathroom the appropriate number of classmates and making sure they wash hands and leave quickly when finished.
- Nurse Escort – if a child seems truly ill, it can be a good idea to send them with an escort in case they get sick along the way or need help from the hallway. This is particularly important for super young kids or friends with severe, unpredictable asthma.
- Station Captain – if you’ve got lots of stations, the station captain can make sure all materials are properly put away (and pitch in when necessary)
- Chair Stacker – classrooms sometimes get way too excitable at the end of the day. It can cut back on chaos to have just one child dutifully stacking chairs rather than a bunch of rowdy kids potentially hitting one another with them.
- Classroom Nurse – not every boo-boo or chapped lip requires a nurse visit. Some kids can be trained to manage the first aid kit, making sure to carefully apply bandaids, throw out trash from the kit, and even dip q-tips into vaseline pots for dry lips.
- Snack Helper – there are always a few kids who aren’t yet able to open their own milk jugs or Cheeto bags. Appoint a friend to make the rounds and help kids so you don’t have to do it!
- Blinds Operator – a child can be responsible for opening and closing blinds each day.
- Mail Person – this kiddo stops by the teacher’s box every morning and every afternoon to pick up papers from the office
- Desk Detective – this person scouts out messy desks on Fridays and helps assist those students in cleaning out and reorganizing.
- Birthday Director – this kid is outgoing and confident in their singing skills. He or she monitors the classroom calendar for birthdays and leads the class in singing at the designated time.
- “The Boss” – if you have a classroom rewards system that involves getting a Friday “paycheck,” this kiddo can be in charge of passing out coupons, fake money, prizes, etc.