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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Classroom Jobs in Elementary Music: an update

I wrote last year about the classroom jobs that I implemented in my elementary general music classes (you can read more details on what jobs I used, how I implement them with hundreds of students to teach between kindergarten and 6th grade, and why I use them, here in my last post). Today I want to introduce you to the new job I added this year: Peace Keepers. So far the students and I are enjoying the change, and I think other classrooms would benefit from having this job in their classes as well.

First of all, let me review very quickly what my jobs were and how I implement them in my classroom. When I started using classroom jobs last school year, I had 6 jobs: Clean Up, Line Leader, Supplies (passing things out), Teacher Helper, Compliment, and Attendance. I assigned each of the jobs to a group of students rather than individuals, using the color "teams" I already have set up in my classroom based on their seat (read about that in this post). This way I don't have to keep track of hundreds of students, but everyone can still have a turn on each job- I rotate the jobs every few weeks so each team ends up having one turn on each job by the end of the year. The jobs are general enough either for the whole team to do the job together (cleaning up and passing out supplies) or to take turns (line leader, teacher helper).

Out of all the jobs I used last year, my favorite by far was the job of Compliment. At the end of class, one student from the assigned team is responsible for complimenting someone not on their team on anything they want- their work in music class, their value as a friend, or even their new shoes. This has been a great practice for students and, although they were hesitant and awkward at first, they love it just as much as I do now!

I decided that this year I wanted to add more responsibility for caring for each other- more opportunities for the students to practice social skills and take part in building a positive learning community- into the classroom jobs. After thinking about it over the summer, the result was my decision to add the job of Peace Keepers. Although it was actually going OK, I got rid of the Attendance job to make room for the new one- now I just let whichever student knows where missing students are tell me, just like I did for the first decade of my teaching!

I explained the job of Peace Keeper to my students as a way for them to assist in helping students who are upset. In particular, I wanted them to be the "first line of defence" when one or two students get upset with no obvious cause. I made it very clear that they were NOT going to be mediating every misbehavior and argument (we simply don't have that kind of time), or becoming everyone's confidant. However, if a student asked to sit out of class, or was visibly upset, and I couldn't immediately talk to them to find out what was wrong, I wanted the students to be able to go and ask them if they are OK and see if there is anything that they can do for them.

So far this has worked out very well. Only a few classes have actually made use of the job- the rest haven't really needed it (which is a good thing)- but the ones that have, used it well. I still need to do a better job reminding myself to utilize those students to go and check in on students when I'm in the middle of a class activity, but when we have used the job it has been very helpful for the student who is upset, for me, and for the ones doing the helping.

I'm happy to have another way for me to encourage students to contribute to a positive learning community and develop these important social skills. It can be hard, when we get such little time with our students, to find ways to spend time on the real work of relationship-building, but these classroom jobs have been an easy way to do that without taking away from class time! If you want to read more about my thoughts on, and strategies for, behavior management, go check out this post on the topic.

Have you used classroom jobs in your music room? How did you do it? What do you do to encourage students to invest in a positive learning community? Leave your thoughts below!

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If you are considering implementing classroom jobs in your music room, make sure to check out my original post on the topic here:


  1. I love that you've added this to your class jobs. I have a "peace makers" job in my teacher planner set, and I always wonder how many teachers use it. Definitely sharing this post :)

    1. That's awesome! This is such an important skill for kids to work on, especially within my student population. I hope more people will consider trying it in their own classrooms!

  2. I love the "compliment" job! As teachers, we are always teaching more than what is in our content area, and I appreciate seeing your incorporation of some social skills into something that seems (to the students) as not part of the instruction. This is a great, simple way to both keep the classroom clean and to keep students encouraging each other.

    1. I have really enjoyed having the system in my classroom, and I have seen the benefits to the students as well! Thank you for your comment :)

  3. I am looking at implementing something like this to give my students more ownership in the music class. I only see them once every four days. I was wondering why you chose to give a task to each team? and if their are 4 people on the team do you just have them rotate? I am thinking I would have a hard time keeping track.

    I was thinking of having 3-4 tasks (compliments, peace keeper, teacher helper?), one for each person on the team and then having that team be in charge of clean up as a whole and supplies be a job that I give to someone of each team. Just wanted to know a little more about how this works in your room?

    Also, what do you do for kiddos who struggle behaving, but are very smart and talented at music? I would like to give them some sort of job to keep them focused and on task, but I am not sure what that should be or how to do it in a way that the rest of the class doesn't think its not fair. I am thinking in particular a kindergartener (and a couple 1st an 2nd graders). Said Kindergartener asked if he could help me pass out cards for a game we were doing, he did a great job and kept asking for the rest of class for things to help with. I may have made up a few things, but he was much better behaved and was much more willing to participate instead of distract the class. What have you done in a similar situation?

    1. I gave each team a job so that everyone had something to do. I have them share the jobs as a team, so when we're cleaning up, I'll have one student collect papers, another tidy the chairs, and another supervise putting away instruments etc. The nice thing about that is I don't have to worry about when a student is absent, and it is also one more way to get students working together cooperatively. I think your proposed system would work too though! I would just make sure to assign 1-2 people to be "substitutes" in case someone is missing when they need to do their job.
      I have a few students like the individuals you're describing too, and I try to give them little things to do aside from the bigger jobs, like close the door, put this pencil on my desk, tidy up the hand drums..... I have had a couple of times when the students in charge of "teacher helper" or "cleanup" jobs complained that the student was taking their job, but for the most part they get it, and when they do complain I explain that I was just having them do something quickly to help out because we were in a hurry, or something like that. I even have an envelope that is pre-addressed to the office from me, and if I have nothing else to have them do but know they need to do something, I will send them to the office to deliver the envelope. The office staff know already to take the envelope knowingly and keep it for me to pick up later. I put a copy of the class lists inside so that if the student peeks, it looks legit ;) Hope this helps! Let me know if you have other thoughts/questions as you think through setting this up in your classroom.