How To Get Students To Assist That's Fair For Everyone

by  Robin  Kegler

More than one person wants to pass out papers, take the message to the office, etc. How do you select students to assist you in the classroom that's fair to everyone? Here's a technique I created and first used when I substituted as a resource teacher. This technique can be used throughout the day, keep learning flowing and limit "hard feelings" for those who were not initially selected.

Before students arrive, look over your attendance roster to get the total number of students in the class. Write the number of students on the chalkboard in short rows to conserve space. For example, if there are twelve (12) students in the class, write the twelve numbers in 3 rows of 4. Whatever your total class size is, evenly divide the numbers into rows so that it is not taking up the whole board.

After you write your numbers on the board, pre-select one of those numbers. Write it underneath the group of numbers near the board ledge in a smaller size. Then, cover the number with a piece of paper, eraser, chalk box or something that would not draw a lot of attention to it.

When the students arrive, they will notice the numbers on the board. You'll get questions like, "What's that about?" "How come there are numbers on the board?" Compliment them on being so observant. Let them know that you'll explain why the numbers are on the board after the morning assignment. If you are substituting for a resource teacher (art, computer, etc.), explain the numbers after introductions and attendance. If students are absent, count the total in the class and erase the extra numbers on the board while they are doing the morning activity.

You can choose whomever you want to start (i.e. girls first, row 1, back of class, etc.). It doesn't make a difference where you start, as long as everyone gets a chance to pick a number. To explain how the numbers are to be used, say something like the following: 1. "One at a time, each student will select a number." 2. "When you select a number, I will cross it off so that no one repeats that number." 3. "Please remember your number."

As the students select a number and you cross them off, listen for the student who gives your pre-selected number. When you hear the number, stop and say something like, "Just a reminder, everyone please remember your number." Making the statement at the time the pre-selected number is stated, gives you the opportunity to remember the student's face for later. Let the students know that it is okay to write their number down if that will help them to remember.

After everyone has selected a number, uncover the hidden, pre-selected number. Let's say you pre-selected the number 8. You'd say, "Who had the number 8? If you had the number 8, please stand up." When the person stands up, assign them the job you wanted them to do. For example, when I first came up with this idea as a substitute for the art resource teacher, I'd say, "You are responsible for passing out the crayons/paint brushes and collecting them at the end of class."

When you assign a job, expect to hear, "Oh-Oh. I wanted to do that!" At this point, tell the students that there are other opportunities to lead and serve, so please remember your number. Also make students aware that if you call their number and no one responds, you'll have to call another number. This puts the responsibility back into the hands of the students. It also provides a sense of expectation throughout the day that they can get the opportunity to lead.

As the day goes on, you'll select students for things such as line leader, messenger, paper clerk, etc. You'll say something like, "Number 2, please collect the papers." Again, it is up to the student to remember their number. You can also cross out, or erase numbers as you use them throughout the day. This method of leadership selection is fair because the students select their numbers, you don't assign them. Therefore you're left out of pre-selecting students, showing favoritism, etc.

Activity Variation: This method can also be used to select teams and small groups. Instead of pre-selecting 1 number, pre-select 3-5 numbers depending on the size of the groups.

I've successfully used this variation for spelling bees, math teams and more. I've also noticed that during long-term assignments, students would pick up on this method and use it during their recess or group time.

Robin Kegler is a Professional Life Coach, Trainer, and creator of the Step By Step Guide and Six Part Audio and Print Program called, "Thriving Teacher Boot Camp."