Let’s talk about a challenge 99.9% of us face – being understaffed. Maybe your IEPs say you need 3 assistants. Guess what? You get two. And one of them needs to leave every day at 1 to go work in another classroom. Deal with it. It’s a struggle. That #struggleisreal hashtag has never been more real. With the multitude of levels, mass amounts of resources, and revolving door of specials, inclusion, and therapies – our classrooms get overwhelming real quick. Especially when there aren’t enough hands on deck. So today let’s talk about having your students be helpers in the classroom. This is a win win. You get extra help and your students practice essential life skills that. I’m talking class jobs beyond ones like sharpen pencils. Think of tasks that you really need help getting done and teach your students to do those. Those activities will be more authentic, valuable, and important for your students.
There are a lot of things in our rooms that have to be switched up and redone every day. From clearing the morning meeting board to undoing file folders – it’s the little tasks that can take a lot of time. Add those activities into daily activities for your kids.
Set up schedules.
Setting up visual schedules can be a pain in the you-know-what. You are always missing a piece or two and the schedule changes each day. After a long and busy day, it’s the last thing you want to worry about. In many of our classroom, our paraprofessionals aren’t paid to stay after and help with these duties or they are maybe assigned to be somewhere else in the building. If you are setting up schedules each day on your own, this is definitely a big job. But the is a perfect job for your student. First off, having students set up their own schedule at the end of the day helps them know what is going on the next day. It helps them plan and anticipate upcoming activities. It also helps give them ownership of their schedule and day. Set up a visual schedule guide (read this post). You need one of these even if you are setting the schedules up on your own (makes it ONE million times faster – I promise). If your student can match, he can set up his own schedule!
If you have students that aren’t quite ready to set up their own schedule, have another student do it. Assign it as a daily job to another student!
Set up independent work time schedules.
Check out this post on how and why you need a schedule for your independent work tasks (again – one million times easier). And now you can use that schedule and have students set it up each morning or afternoon for the next day. Again, this gives students ownership in the room and let’s them know what they will be doing later. I had two students do this together and it was great to see how well they worked together and shared the responsibility. Sharing the responsibility is SUCH an important life skill and these kids completely excelled at it. I also really loved that this class job had a consequence if it wasn’t done. If they didn’t set up the schedule, other kids didn’t know what to do for their work and caused a problem. Having a real meaning to a task makes it more valuable and important to our students.
If not all of your students utilize your independent work system – you can have students that don’t complete the tasks undo them as a job or task. I never want student undoing work that they did. I think that teaches that they work is meaningless. How would you like it if you spent 15 minutes sorting colored buttons just to dump them all out at the end. But if a student, isn’t using the work system, he can undo other students’ tasks.
Daily morning tasks.
Tomorrow morning, write down all of those little things you need to do every day. Maybe you set up binders, hand in the lunch count, take attendance, check in homework, etc. All of those little tasks eat up your time and attention. And again – they are great things your kids can be doing. This are genuine, real tasks that have to be done and giving your student the responsibility is teaching a real life skill not a contrived one.