August 12, 2014

How I Manage my High School Classes

Don’t you love that feeling when your class is running smoothly, the kids are all on task, and your grading is caught up?  Me, too!  Finding a management system that works feels like such an accomplishment, cause Lord knows I’ve tried my share of duds.

So, today, I want to share with you a system that I’ve been using for the last ten years.  You know how the greatest inventions are born from necessity?  Well, this was necessary for me!  As an English teacher, I have way too much student writing to look at, edit, comment on, then grade. To be honest, I often feel that even if my time was spent only on grading essays, there still wouldn’t be enough hours for me to get the work back in a timely manner (not to mention hang out with my family).  Factor in other student work (homework, vocabulary practice, independent reading, and more), and the paper load is overwhelming.  So here’s where it gets good.  I knew that if I expected students to do all these other tasks, then I needed to give them credit for their work, after all, these guys are smart and they wouldn’t see value in working for free.  But, I didn’t want to be a human grading machine. So, what to do, you ask?

Creating Class Leaders!  I came up with the idea of class leaders to help manage the overwhelming paper load that is inevitable with 200+ students.  I knew that the students were capable of handling more responsibility and I knew that students thrived on competition.  An idea to merge the two started forming.

First, I needed some guidelines.  I usually divide my room into 8, either by rows of desks or groups, so I knew I needed 8 leaders per class.  Then, what did I want them to do?  Much of our homework is independent practice to help reinforce skills that will later be assessed.  I needed the students to practice, but didn’t want to give them tons of points to overinflate grades.  I decided to put the class leaders in charge of stamping and recording these small assignments, averaging the points, and managing their groups. 

The first time through, during first quarter, I ask interested students to apply to be a row leader (and I always get several applications).  I pick the remainder of the leaders and then create the seating chart.  For subsequent quarters, I again asks for applications, and then choose the remaining leaders based on grades or effort.  After the first quarter, I send the selected leaders outside to draft their groups, giving them a bigger buy-in and making them think critically about what types of group members they want to work with.
An awesome group of leaders on Halloween
Each week, my student leaders turn in a chart with several assignments listed across the top.  Each group member gets a check mark for each complete assignment (it’s all or nothing, as these points only amount to 10 per week).  The class leader counts each person’s checks, then records the total.  Then, the leader averages the group’s points and records the percentage.  This is the percentage of completed work for each row, and leads to the competition.  I add each group’s weekly percentage as a running tally on my side board, so that each group in each period can see the score.  I run the competition through the quarter, and the winning team at the end of quarter gets extra credit and a sweet treat.


My students love this system!  They like the extra responsibility that comes with being a group leader and they like the competition aspect, which motivates all the students to do their work.

I'd love for you to download this freebie and let me know how it works for you.

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