Tag Archives: back to school

Guest Post: Creando Comunidad with Classroom Jobs

It’s August and today was my first day reporting to school for the 2022-23 school year. I had a very short, busy summer, and while it was hard to go back, I’m excited to start planning for the upcoming year.

For this post, I enlisted the help of the fabulous Michaela McCaughey. I’ve had every intention of implementing classroom jobs for several years, but I never get around to actually working out the logistics and putting them into practice. I remembered Michaela telling me how she uses classroom jobs in her classes, and the impact they have on community building, so I reached out to her to see if she’d be a guest author. Luckily for all of us, she agreed! Read on to learn more about this great practice that can not only build a sense of community but also lighten your load as the teacher.

Creando Comunidad with Classroom Jobs

by Michaela McCaughey

Over the summer, I reflected on what worked, and what definitely did not work this past school year. It was a challenging one, which I know is not unique to me or my school. And like every year, there are things I will add in, remove, and adjust. However, an element that has remained in place since I started teaching, one that has consistently improved the environment and flow, is assigning classroom jobs.

At the start of the year, there is a heavy emphasis on the community we are building. Taking care of our shared space and collaborating to make it run as smoothly as possible is part of that. This class, and classroom, is for all of us. Everyone taking an active part in that, and being invested in the class, is part of how we will function well as a community. Which if you think about it, is true in just about all places.

There are lots of different specifics you could include when implementing classroom jobs, and many other language teachers have written about it and shared resources. My advice is to make it work for you, your students, your class. Keep it simple. Adapt and adjust as needed. Include or add in later the jobs you and your class really need for success. This can look so many different ways, and it’s the most fun part! Treat it as a real and important thing, because it is, and because that is critical to students buying in and taking their jobs seriously.

At some point in the first week or two of school, I roll out classroom jobs. Earlier is better here. Some teachers give them out as they organically come up, I tend to explain them all at once and students pick them (in class in the moment or via Google Form if you think there will be competition for some jobs). I try to get everyone a job, though this depends on your class sizes and amount of jobs. It’s more important that the jobs have real meaning and tasks. [Sometimes a student will refuse to take a job, this is then a helpful data point for meeting with them from a social-emotional learning standpoint. Not a fight, but a conversation worth having.]

So, in sum: we talk about student jobs, students choose or apply for the one(s) they’re interested in. The following class, I tell them who ended up with which job, and we write them on chart paper to hang in the room for reference. Some jobs come into play every day, some only as needed/certain days. You can change them quarterly, or never. Switch a specific job if a student isn’t doing it. Often I give the students who have excelled in their jobs first pick when we switch them.

Grading: I give them a 100 as a participation assignment if they do their job well and reliably. I also ask about it in a quarterly self-assessment and as needed in class. If they don’t have a job or don’t do it very well, they simply don’t get a grade for that assignment, so it doesn’t negatively impact their grade. It doesn’t have to be graded at all. Grading behavior is not something I am cavalier about so this may shift in the future, but for now it’s been the most equitable way to incorporate a grade for it.

Some of my inspirations over the years:

  • Bryce Hedstrom has a ton of great resources on student jobs, aimed at the CI classroom but certainly adaptable to the heritage classroom (especially useful pdf here)
  • Bertha Delgadillo, a phenomenal teacher in the heritage language teaching community, has a great blog post with helpful links and resources.

Some of my resources:

  • Student Job Descriptions Doc (2019, pre-Covid)
    I left this as is so you can see the examples but it is different now! We’re not allowed to use diffusers, El Internado is off Netflix, cojines were banned during Covid, and the point system went out the window this past year. Also, the Bouncer role took on a whole new level with my class that kept dismissing themselves early. It solved the problem in that it was that student’s job, they took it seriously, and the class knew exactly when to leave. The point is, it’s supposed to change.
  • Google form for students to select a job(s) (Tip: make a copy for yourself before editing)
  • Images from student-facing slides (2021, Covid additions), launching student jobs and explaining them to students in class:

To wrap up, I’ll leave you with this recent find on Instagram that captures my “why” behind student jobs, and a general helpful reminder for all of us as we go back to school.

We hope you’ve found this post helpful. Do you use classroom jobs in your classes, or are you thinking of trying this year? Tell us about it in the comments! My goal this year is to be more active here on the blog, and I’d love to hear what topics you’re interested in. Check out Michaela’s bio below and don’t hesitate to connect with her on Twitter.

Michaela McCaughey is a high school Spanish Heritage teacher in Providence, Rhode Island. Her students are creative artists who push and inspire her. Within her educational philosophy she focuses on social justice issues, culturally sustaining pedagogy, arts-integration, and (bi)literacy. Connect with her on Twitter @mika_ryan

Starting The Year Off Write

The first week of school is fast approaching, and I’m already battling my usual pre-school anxiety. But this year, in addition to the typical back to school nerves, I’m even more anxious because I am completely revamping how I teach my Heritage 1 course. For as much as I have read and collaborated and prepared, I still kind of feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s not the first time I’ve made major changes to my course. In fact, last summer I completely rewrote my curriculum, and it was overall quite successful. But after I was introduced to writing workshop, I realized that it was the direction I really wanted to go in. Every year I say that I want my students to learn to be better writers. Yet every year, even when I add more writing assignments, I fail to add more writing instruction. It’s not really all that surprising; after all, I never learned how to teach writing.

So, this year is going to be different. In addition to my focus on independent reading, I am adding writing workshop. Students will write every day, and I will be teaching them specific writing skills that we will work on together throughout the year. No more wishing that they magically improve their writing. This year, I have a plan.

Part of that plan is jumping into our routines on day one. It worked for me last year with independent reading (actually, that went even better than expected), so I’m hopeful that it will work for me this year, too.

My plan for Day 1 (August 19!!!) looks like this:

  • Welcome students / Warm up with some questions about how they feel about reading and writing in English and in Spanish / Go over objectives for the day
  • Read aloud: 10 Cosas que quiero que sepas de esta clase
  • Quick write: Students will write about the letter we read (NOT a summary of it) for 5 minutes
  • Revision: Students will read their writing and revise it to make it better for 2 minutes
  • Share: Students will read their writing (not summarize it) to a nearby partner of their choice (3 minutes)

When I’m honest with myself, I recognize that this will likely take the entire 50-minute period. But because I always over-plan (hello again, anxiety), I have also planned some activities to jump into our independent reading. These include doing brief book talks on a pile of high-interest books, and giving students the opportunity to browse the books and read some of them for a couple of minutes to see what they might like. Again, I’m fairly certain we won’t have time, and that’s okay. I can always start with that on Day 2.

My non-negotiables for the year are that EVERY DAY students will:

  • Read something they choose
  • Read something they understand
  • Write about something personally meaningful
  • Talk with peers about reading and writing
  • Listen to a fluent adult reader read aloud

These came from a presentation by Amy Rasmussen (find her at her blog, Three Teachers Talk), and they really resonated with me. So why not start on Day 1? Students don’t want to listen to me talk about the syllabus and rules for 50 minutes anyway, and I’ve always hated spending my first minutes with them convincing them that my class will be a huge bore. My hope is that this plan teaches students what to expect in class, while at the same time introducing the routines and letting them get to know me right from the start.