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Inspired by those who love school


Our 3rd and 1st grader get to spend their days in classrooms full of children who – for the most part – still adore school. So given the chance I am going to steal any idea they bring my way about what makes school so engaging and fun for them. I’m on a mission to make my students love at least 52 minutes a day.

“I get to turn the lights on and off all week,” our son (our oldest of 3) boasted last week. “And I even get a piece of candy at the end of the week.”

Cheap help, but even candies would get a little tough to keep on hand. Especially with 5 groups of students coming through my doors each day, and especially with my mid-late afternoon appetite. But there is one currency that all high schoolers appreciate.

Extra credit.

I had a whiteboard in my room that I had never found a good use for. It’s too small to use for lecture/discussion, but too big for a student to have at their desk. So I fashioned this:


In just one week, three categories of helpers have already given me 1-2 hours back of instructional time as well as some sanity

Now all I have to do is draw three names each week. My lights are taken care of. My projectors are both on (yes there are two in my room). Homework is collected and the previous day’s (or days’) worth of paperwork is handed back. Another person is my go-to for handing out worksheets and is also the back-up for the other two duties for when someone is absent.

At the end of the week, they get a voucher. The voucher gives them one of the following:

– an excused tardy up to 3 minutes
– a restroom break during class (HALL PASS is boldly printed on the reverse in case they use it for this)
– a free homework assignment
– if none of the above, extra credit at the end of the semester

My only concern was buy-in. But I was honest with them. I told them where I got the idea. I reminded them how fun it can be to help with some simple tasks in class, and that they essentially get extra credit for helping out. The amount of extra credit they get is very inconsequential; 1 free homework last semester would have been worth about 1/3 of 1% of their semester grade. But already classes are helping remind their peers about their duties if they forget. “Mr. Ratliff, aren’t you taking Stephen’s job?” a few asked when I was handing back quizzes today. “Indeed I am,” I said. “And Stephen still gets the extra credit!”

I’ve created short 1/3-page job descriptions to give at the beginning of the week to the 3 lucky ones in each period. I probably save 2-4 minutes each period. But I also get old papers passed out much more quickly now, which honestly was just not happening very frequently before.  If at all.

Even for just the time savings, though: 2 minutes • 5 instructional periods • 5 days per week = 50 minutes

Add to this I already have significantly less paperwork to look at in my outboxes.

Maybe I won’t make every single student love my class.  But I sure am loving my class a little more.



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