Let Them Do it! Fostering Independence in the Classroom!

We all want our students to be independent.  We want them to figure out a solution to the problem, to get their work done, to make sure that they put their things away, and not lose their homework.  Check out some ways that I am fostering independence in the classroom!
Fostering Independence in the Classroom
So, I figured out the other day that I have been teaching for 17 years.  Sheesh, that seems like such a long time, but it has really flown by!
One of the things that I have always had some trouble with is being a control freak, perfectionist,  little reluctant to relinquish control over everything in my classroom.  I always thought that everything had to be perfect all the time.
My students would ask me if they could help all the time!  I always said, “Don’t worry about it! Mrs. Gard has got it!” Then I would wonder why they didn’t do anything on their own.
Being a teacher is exhausting.  There is so much to do in one day I can’t even start to make a list.  I am not complaining, as this is what I have signed up for, but there is only so much one person (even a very determined person) can do in one day.
So, instead of tearing my hair out, I set out to figure out what I could let the kiddos do without it driving me crazy, and that would help them have more ownership of our classroom and become more independent!
So, here is where I have relinquished some control.
Everyday I have a “Star Student”.  I have  a system where a “Star Student” sticker moves down the clips.  I do go in number order, so the kiddos know who is going to be next.  The only exception is birthdays.  If it is your birthday, you get to be the Star Student for the day.  I do half birthdays for those kiddos with summer birthdays.  If you birthday is on a Saturday, we celebrate the Friday before, if your birthday is on a Sunday, then we celebrate on the Monday after.  If I have 2 kiddos with the same birthday, we go in ABC order. It works for us!
My Star Student it my go to helper for the day. They pass out papers, distribute mail,  run errands for the day, and take care of the board at the end of the day (erase the board, move the Star Student tag, change the agenda, move the partners tags).  They often have a friend help them, but they choose, it is all up to them to get it done! I don’t have a job chart, the Star Student does it all for the day!
My kiddos also know that at the end of the day that pencils need sharpening.  Someone ALWAYS takes care of that job.  I don’t assign it, someone just does it.  If they don’t, the kiddos sharpen 2 pencils in the morning for their own use.  It is part of our “Morning Business” routine.  If the pencils don’t get sharpened, they have to write in crayon.  No self-respecting 2nd grader wants to write in crayon.  It always gets done.
My kiddos LOVE to write on the whiteboards.  They will do it any chance they get, so why not make it productive?
My Star Student also writes the morning message in the morning.  Then, during our morning meeting we correct any mistakes.  They have gotten really good at writing the morning message!  Rarely do we have many mistakes anymore!  My kiddos also put up reminder notes, messages etc…They know the routine!  If I need to fix anything I do.  This has also helped with the “What special do we have? and When is lunch? questions.  They know when those things happen because they help with the agenda and the message!
This also gives my students authentic reasons to be writing!  Win-Win!
At the end of the day, there is always a mess on the floor.  One way that I have found really get the floor clean is by having a piece of “Magic Trash”.  
The kiddos pick up every scrap of trash while the “Help” song is on.  It is Help by the Beatles.
Then, they all come to the rug when the song is over to show me their trash.
Whoever finds the “Magic Trash” gets $5 in mini-economy money (it is a kind of classroom economy thing).  Of course they don’t know what the Magic Trash is, so they pick up EVERYTHING!  In the past I have given small prizes or privilege coupons as well.  Let me tell you, my floors are spotless at the end of the day!
All of these little tweaks have made a big difference in how my classroom runs.  All of the things they do, I don’t have to do.
It does take some time at the beginning of the school year to teach them how to do these things, but it pays off in spades!
What kinds of things do you have the kiddos do in your classroom?
Thanks so much for stopping by!  🙂

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