Saturday, November 1, 2014

Relinquishing Control in the Classroom

I was recently having a conversation with one of my grade level partners and we were discussing how we can make our students more independent and transform our classrooms so that it is basically run by the students. One way to do this is by giving students more responsibilities. I started off the school year with a handful of jobs, including paper passers, sanitizer distributors and a paper collector. As the year goes on, I introduce more jobs and allow for students to take ownership of different aspects of the day. For example, this is what my morning looks like:

After students enter the classroom, they take a seat at their desk. I start the timer for breakfast and morning work (because the times vary depending on when we get in), and as students take out their homework folders, I dismiss students by table to put their belongings away in the cubbies. A student is in charge of turning off the timer on my ipad when the alarm goes off, another student gets up and gives out table points during breakfast cleanup, and a third student manages breakfast cleanup, calling each table to throw their breakfast out. The only time I intervene is when I dismiss the tables to put their things away, and starting from next week, that task will be given to a student. 

The first 20 minutes of school is student-run, and I love it. I love seeing my students working together to help roll the day out because, as I stated before, I stress to my students that we are a team, and "Teamwork makes the dream work." So, in order to move my classroom into a student-run class throughout the day and not just in the mornings, I am giving out more responsibilities to my students starting this upcoming week. I'm going to start by handing over the job of dismissing students to their cubbies as well as calling students for transitions. In my class, we use nonverbal hand signals for all transitions and the students know them by heart now so a student could definitely take up this task. We put up 1 finger to indicate girls and 2 for boys, and then we use the following steps:

(Quick note: For transitioning from the rug to their desks, the second step, "B", changes to mean "face your destination," since there are no chairs on the rug.) 

Before you start releasing control in your classroom, it's important to have your routines and procedures set in place. If your students are still struggling with following expectations, I would work on that first before passing on the majority of the responsibilities to the students. My mornings weren't always student-run. I had to do it slowly, stepping back and allowing students to take over with my facilitation and and a handful of reminders. After practice and explicit instruction, I was able to step back and let them run the morning. Of course, we're not fully there yet, but it's my goal for my students to become more self sufficient and to help operate the day together. My hope is that by January-February, we'll have the majority of the day lead by students without me having to give constant reminders. Here's to dreaming a big dream!

How do you relinquish control in your classroom? What jobs do you have your students completing? Do you find them to be useful or more work managing?

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