Routines, habits and rules are all parts of a solid classroom management plan. Yet there’s one overall characteristic that when instilled in your students, will give your classroom management plan an additional boost so that it may function fully and produce results: student ownership.
Student ownership is when students feel that the classroom belongs to them. Getting students to feel ownership in the classroom means they will feel motivated to keep their space neat, and make sure the classroom works well.
How can ownership be instilled in students? Children must feel that the classroom doesn’t belong to the teacher or the school, but to them. Part of this can come from communication. The teacher must tell and show the children that the space is for them. This means that you, the teacher can simply say “This is your space, it’s your classroom.”
Part of this has to do with set-up. Although the classroom can be set up at the beginning of the year, there should be spaces that students can contribute to creating. They can participate in designing anything from bulletin boards to reading nooks. Get them to bring in plants, and create a habitat for the class fish. They need to be involved in making the space their own.
Furthermore, if things are comfortable for the children, made according to their needs and size, the classroom is a better space for them. For example, pictures or posters should be hung up at the child’s eye-level, not at the teacher’s. Students should also have access to necessary items such as paper and pencils without asking the teacher. This shows them that the teacher trusts them to use classroom materials responsibly.
In order for students to be able to exercise their ownership, the teacher must give them the space to do it. This means that the teacher trusts the students to complete tasks on their own and to care for the classroom. The teacher can facilitate this by creating jobs in the classroom or having checklists in place for student work. For example, there may be a rotating plant watering routine that a few students are in charge of. Or, there can be a few students in charge of organizing the class library every day. Whatever it is, the teacher must step back and allow the students to complete their jobs, trusting that they’ll be done.
The teacher may help students grow in their abilities to care for the classroom by pointing out the benefits of their hard work. For example, after observing a child clean up a mess on the floor, the teacher may say “Thank you for cleaning. Now the space is ready for others to work.” Or after observing a child complete her job to change the fish’s water, the teacher may say “Now the fish has a clean space to swim.” These small observations will help children internalize the benefits of their work in the classroom community.
Classroom ownership may seem like a subtle, small part of classroom management. Yet, this adjustment in attitude can make all the difference. How do you instill classroom ownership in your students?