I first shared this system as a presentation to a group of teachers in training at the Region XIII Education Service Center, in Austin, Texas a few years ago. And now I share it here. I like the “we’re all in this boat together” concept and therefore the themes are used from basic Word clipart. I have been strangely fortunate to work at middle schools with nautical-themed mascots, so the art lends itself well to those themes. Please feel free to change the names of the jobs and the themes/art to suit your campus and mascot or traditions. If possible, it is best to print in color, and if you have a poster-printer at your campus, the “mini-posters” sheet would be great in poster size!
For this grouping and motivation system, you will have editable Word documents to use and adjust as needed. This system is intended for use with middle school students so that everyone has a job at in your class—so they are individually accountable, but also accountable to their own team, and even to the class.
You set what types of rewards students can earn. Consider your campus and the resources at your disposal. In some schools, you could reward students or groups with such privileges as computer/iPad time, homework passes, lunch with the teacher—and they get to invite a couple of friends, or school-wide coupons that can be used toward purchases at the school store or in the classrooms of other teachers. For some, it can be a small snack or a prize from a treasure box of school supplies, toys, or games. You know your kids—be creative with the prizes!
To begin, it is best to look at your class students and use the Kagan Model for Cooperative Grouping. Group high with medium and medium-high with low students so that there is built-in support and leadership, but also to avoid frustration and conflict that would arise from grouping extremes or too alike.
Each job has its own definition. I usually have students in groups of four. If you have a smaller class, I recommend grouping in threes and have all share the job of Logisitics Control. Ideally, I have students keep the job for one week, and then rotate the jobs but not the teams the next week, and the week after. They compete this way for 3 weeks. Sometimes, for some teams, it is better to compete only for 2 weeks. I pick the team and assign the jobs the first time; once kids have learned to work with others (especially kids who are not in their normal circle of friends), we progress to where I choose the captains and the captains pick their teams. To build equity, I usually require that they pick at least one girl and one boy, and that they cannot have two best friends on their team—I reserve the right to veto a pick. Later, the class nominates and votes for captains, and captains choose. I also have let kids come together as a team and self-assign roles. Each week, I ask them to switch roles so that everyone gets a chance before year’s end to practice different types of responsibility.
I supplement this system by using the online system/app “Classroom Dojo” to track the points and give visual feedback to the teams.