I know a lot about classroom jobs!
Hello from the middle! I’m Sabrina, a sixth-grade English teacher who also has a background in human resources. It seems like an odd mix but it’s not.
When I left HR and returned to the classroom, I remembered a common deficit with the candidates I interviewed—the lack of soft skills. Soft skills are those little traits that help us work well with others. You know them as things like communication, teamwork, and leadership.
I’m passionate about helping my students improve these critical skills that will help them excel and stand out. Enter the classroom job. You might have some that look a little like these, right?
- Line leader
- Supply keeper
- Door holder
Classroom jobs are a creative way to give students responsibility. But jobs can also build soft skills. Not sure what skills make sense in the classroom? Here are seven of the top soft skills that are easy to implement and important to nurture.
Top 7 Soft Skills
- Critical thinking
Should there be classroom jobs in middle school?
One of the best things about building these skills through classroom jobs is that it doesn’t require much work on your part. I’ve made my own job board in the past, but you could also buy what you need.
An added bonus? Your classroom jobs encourage better cooperation and learning. If you don’t believe me, read on to discover the mistake I almost made this year with my classroom jobs.
After teaching fifth grade for four years, I moved to middle school this year. Students always held jobs in my elementary classrooms, but I wasn’t sure how they would translate in middle school.
So, when school started this year, I was on the fence about implementing the jobs. A month into the year, I knew that it would be a mistake not to have jobs. Middle school is quite different from elementary school, but…
My classes just seemed nuts without jobs!
I needed the students to have some rewards. I wanted them to buy into our little community. The structure that jobs brought was missing. Having students working in my classroom has become a part of my classroom management. I didn’t like the way my class functioned without jobs.
Proof positive, jobs work!
Realizing that I needed to have jobs in my middle school classes, I set out to quickly update my student tasks. With a little tweaking, I was able to create age-appropriate classroom jobs for my sixth graders. I changed a lot of the job titles and beefed up the responsibilities. For example, the door holder became a porter. Making the system digital was an extra task, but it was better for this age group.
If you’re still not convinced about the benefits of classroom jobs, I have real examples of wins in my classrooms. Here are just a few.
- Communication: I love seeing shy students find their voice through their jobs. In fifth grade, I discovered a natural leader in one of my students who rarely spoke up. Once she started talking, she was quite effective in leading other students.
- Leadership: One year I injured my hand at school and had to leave for the doctor urgently. The student assistant paid all the workers in the classroom, and the students bought their rewards as scheduled. When I returned that Monday, all the supplies and books were in their right places courtesy of our class distributor.
- Resourcefulness: During this same absence, the class secretary and assistant wrote a note on the board telling me how smoothly everything had gone. They left me a detailed list of what was covered by the substitute and even updated the homework board. I was stunned at their resourcefulness. Even my administrator was impressed with how the students stepped up.
Something for EVERY grade level
Yes, the above examples are from upper elementary, but the same ideas apply to most ages. Look at these soft skills examples from second through seventh grade.
2nd & 3rd Grade
Think about small group study and how students work together. When I taught second grade, I had a supply worker. This helper made sure that everyone got their papers and that supplies were put back where they belonged. It might seem like a small effort, but the supply worker took pride in helping her classmates be prepared.
4th & 5th Grade
When I taught fifth grade, I had peer helpers who specifically helped students when their work was complete. Sure, students will do this sometimes without a class job. However, with designated peer helpers, students knew who would readily give them extra support.
I also taught the peer helpers how to model or guide and not just give answers. In my fifth-grade classroom, there was always an assistant. This student would update our monthly calendar, pay students for their weekly jobs, run our classroom store, and take on a leadership role during special activities.
If the students had a small conflict, the assistant would lead the discussion to help solve it or take a class vote. A parent once told me how convincing her fifth grader had become because he did so much critical thinking with his job in my class. He was using his job skills to win his mother over for things he wanted. He was so convincing that she gave in — a lot.
6th & 7th Grade
- Critical thinking
Middle school presents more advanced opportunities for jobs. In my class, jobs change each month. To get some added leadership practice, the outgoing job holders train the new job holders. I couldn’t have been prouder watching the first student training. All the job holders took their training roles seriously, and most even passed on little nuggets of wisdom about how to perform their job easier or better.
On an average day, the job holders play a big part in our classroom transition and flow. For example, our porter makes sure the door is closed as soon as the bell rings. Students who enter after that closure know that they are tardy.
My sixth graders still enjoy classroom rewards that I have renamed perks. Perks include everything from brain breaks to sweet treats. One day a week, students get to purchase perks from our virtual store. To pay for the perks, they earn one point each day for cooperative behavior.
Our class assistant is the storekeeper, and she serves each student from our online store. I created the online store and our online bank. However, our class assistant opens the store each week from her Chromebook and records student purchases. She also communicates when we are sold out of items, and when the store is closed.
Talk about leadership!
Practice makes progress
You probably noticed that I listed teamwork underneath each grade level. That is because there is no denying how important this skill is. Students start out serving the classroom—taking pride in their role to make the whole group better.
Later, this skill shows how well you carry your weight on a group project, or how you collaborate with a team of co-workers. We’ve all been there when a partner or group member doesn’t pull her weight. Hmm?
Maybe that person didn’t hold any class jobs when they were younger.
It’s never too late or too early
As we move into the final weeks of school, now is a good time to think about your classroom jobs for next year. Here are a few questions to quick start the process:
- What soft skills can you help students practice as they serve in your classroom?
- What jobs do you already have that can incorporate the skills?
- What materials do you need or need to tweak?
And if you are an upper-level or middle-school teacher, please, please, please think about adding a few jobs if you don’t have them already. Not having classroom jobs is a missed opportunity for better classroom management and no-prep skills practice.
Classroom jobs are great for any age. And there is no denying the benefits that come from them. With a small investment of time, you’ll give your students invaluable personal skills that will last them a lifetime.
A blogger and freelance writer, Sabrina blends 20+ years of career experiences in human resources and education to do what she’s always hoped to do—offer solutions and options through her words.
Sabrina provides middle school survival tips to parents on her blog Get Me Through Sixth Grade. When she’s not teaching English or writing, she’s spending time with her family, reading, or enjoying a great cup of black coffee.