Jobs for Kids

I was asked in St. Louis for a list of jobs my kids do in class. I can never remember them all, but here is a partial list with about 18 jobs listed – many of the ones below are described in either TPRS in a Year! or PQA in a Wink!. Those jobs marked with an asterisk are of major importance in my weekly schedule and somehow make the class – just because those people are doing those jobs – move along much better. I don’t know why.
PQA Structure Counters* (3) (Monday) – The PQA counters do so much. They do things that we are not even aware of, functioning as a kind of social glue. They bring us together in pursuit of a common goal. Pure gold.
Story Quiz Writer* (Tuesday)
Story Writer* (Tuesday)
Story Artist* (Tuesday)
Distributor/Collector of Quiz Scantron Sheets (any day)
Distributor/Collector of Pencils (I buy a ton at Big Lots as loaners – it avoids confrontations)
Professeur (there can be two of these)
Bleater* (auditions for this position are hilarious)
Où/Where Person* (instantly lowers the kids’ affective filter in class)
Quand/When Person (also instantly lowers the kids’ affective filter in class)
Word Chunk Team Controller 1 (this is the most left out kid in class who couldn’t even get into a group. He gets to pick – which team raised their hand first – see resources/workshop handouts for Work Chunk Team details.)
Word Chunk Team Controller 2 (another kid in need of feeling needed – this one judges synchronicity of group signed responses.)
Word Chunk Team Controller 3 (keeps score)
the Sound Effects Guru (as per Nathan Black)
the Door Knocker Person (use of apps – this job and the one below are described on this blog site at – both are big winners with the kids.)
the Door Ringer Person (use of apps – see above link for detailed description of how both door jobs work in the classroom)
New jobs just added:
1. the Reader Leader*. This is the kid who leads the class in the choral reading of texts. She reads slowly and loudly and literally brings the class along with her. Extra credit for that.
2. the Memorizer of the Cards. This kid knows what everyone in the class wrote down on their Circling with Balls cards. Then, whenever I ask in any given moment in class, unexpectedly, what So and So does, he answers quickly that So and So does whatever. Then I ask where So and So does whatever and he answers where. Then I go back to the other CI. This is also an extra credit job. In fact all the jobs are extra credit jobs.
3. The Greeter. Kate Taluga says: “Everyday I greet all my students at the door. But I realize I don’t have this luxury beyond my first period class, as it seems that someone is always standing there with some kind of question. So on Monday I stand with the week’s Greeter and greet everyone and model the greeting phrase and secret handshake and the rest of the week some kid does it.
4. Alarm clock/English Abuse – kid who can make the most annoying sound in class sounds off at the slightest sign that the teacher may be going into an English rant or when the class needs to take a quiz (sometimes we just need to stop the CAI and take the quiz. The kid sounds off and the teacher thanks her/him profusely and segues right back into Spanish. The message to the rest of the students is clear. We’re hear to listen to Spanish, not to listen to the teacher talk about Spanish in English.
5. Hoy (today) Kid – (Spanish classes only) – this kid shouts “OY!” à la AC/DC’s rendition of the song, TNT where the Australian band members shout, “TNT, oy! oy! oy! TNT, oy! … etc.). I linked it to ‘today’ by telling the class that the band didn’t know they were singing, TNT today! today! today! Corny, but it works.
6. The Official Timer – this one is from Carla Butler. This kid times how long the class can go in the TL. Class times are written on the board. The kids get competitive and class pride is often on the line.
7. Vanna White – he or she strolls along the word wall and points out words as the lesson unfolds, helping the teacher.
8. Word Looker Upper – this kid has to jump on the internet and retrieve a word that the instructor doesn’t know, which is not a big deal because we can’t be expected to know every word – langauges are infinitely complex even for native speakers.
9. Clapper Kid –  this kid gets the clapper/noisemaker. Give a noisemaker to one (responsible) student who then, in those moments when applause is needed/earned, starts the applause. The teacher then is not the only person to initiate applause, there are two people. (credit: Abbey Parks)
10. King/Queen of Gestures – some kid who just nails the gestures. They could keep some trinket on their desk… When you can’t have anything on your desk, it’s special to be able to do so. And, since 14-year olds can’t really control themselves, if they monkey with their trinket when it’s not the right time, they get fired and someone else gets a chance…. (credit: Grant Boulanger)
11. Student Secretary – Judy Dubois in France has a student secretary in each class who gives participation points to students. She explains: “I give the secretary (who changes each class) a class list and their job is to tally the number of times students raise their hand and speak. When an answer or suggestion is particularly good or the question difficult, I give bonus points. If a student gets out of hand, they get a “yellow card” I rarely have to give a “red card”. Of course, this is France, so everyone knows that yellow card is a referee’s warning and red card puts you out of the game. The secretary writes yellow card or red card besides the student’s name. This system is much simpler for me because I don’t have to stop to write it down or give a lecture, I just say “yellow card” and go on with the lesson.”
12. Story Ender Fairy – this is the student who, as we say the three sentences speedily that wrap up a story as per the “Petit Renseignement” skill (#31 in TPRS in a Year!), waves his/her wand to make the actors fast forward to the end of the story. The fairy’s prop would have to be within reach of the kid.
13. English Patrol – this student shouts “alto!” if English is used. Timer will go back to zero. [credit: Kate Marquez]
14. Actors – will synchronize actions to teacher’s speaking or reading.
15. The Dialogue Bubble Kid, who runs across the stage with a big dialogue bubble with some key phrase written on it at various moments during Reader’s Theatre.
16. Cardboard Set Crew – this is a set of two or three artistic kids in each class whose job it is to instantly create – out of cardboard – a boat, a train, a tree, whatever is necessary during Reader’s Theatre or in a story. The admonition is to not have them create too many materials, and to do so only when some set object would really further the CI. Otherwise the crew tends to overbuild, as it were, when storage space is usually a problem and when the crew should be involved in the co-creation of the story most of the time anyway. This is Jason’s idea and it is a good one, especially for younger kids. Just go to Home Depot to pick up the cardboard – it’s everywhere on their shelves for the taking.
17. L2 Timer Kid – this student times how long we stay in the TL in a class period. [credit: Hayne Painter]
18. Capitaine Dictionnaire – Cheryl came up with this idea. It’s the kid who looks up the (very few) new words that the kids bring in via cute answers, words like “squid”.
We once had a group of kids – the Dog Barkers – whose jobs were to bark like dogs on certain cues, to mess with admininstrators, but that never really took off. I was all excited about, even had a theme song for them – a Ventures song in which hunting dogs actually bark as part of the music. Oh well. I got a little out there on that one.
Kids keep their jobs until the quality of what they have been chosen to do goes down or they choose not to do the job for some other reason. Kids usually jealously guard their jobs because they get extra credit (if they remember to remind me around the end of the grading period.) I have bumped up a grade by a full letter to some of these kids who were so helpful to me, so filled with good will because here was a class where they had a chance to count, during a grading term. If I am asked if I give extra credit I actually have an answer – I say only those who are good at their jobs during the grading term get extra credit. It really is a discipline ploy, and it works. Giving a job to a kid who is in the bottom quarter of the class, or who acts like that because that has been his experience in schools up to the point when he walked into your classroom, goes a long way in keeping the class focused.
In a nutshell, the most important jobs above, the ones that are necessary to drive my new weekly format (search “Weekly Schedule New (2011)”, the one based on Bloom’s taxonomy, are the three Structure Counters – knowing how many reps I got on each structure on Monday is very important to me. Then, on story days on Tuesdays I really need the Quiz Writer**, the Story Writer, and the Artist.
**Note: Ben Lev came up with a nice little set of instructions for the Quiz Writer. Here they are:
Querido/a Quiz Writer,  
¡Gracias por escribir el examen pequeño!
1. Please write 15+ statements in Spanish about the facts of the story.
2. Use the new vocabulary in the statements.
3. Write about half of the statements true and half false.
4. Write Verdad (V) o Mentira (M) depending on the correct answer.
5. Listen carefully to the spoken story to help you write in correct Spanish.
6. Please write 1-2 statements that can be inferred from the story: something that is not said directly but can be said indirectly, supported by knowing the facts.
I  just found another blog post from way back in 2008 on a search that expands a bit on the above:
[ed. note: jobs are merely one way to personalize our classrooms. The Circling with Balls activity(resources/workshop handouts page of this site) works for heavy personalization at the beginning of the year, as does the Name Game (described also on this site on the resources/workshop handouts page). Plus, we personalize a lot when we do stories, as Laurie really pointed out to our group at NTPRS when we co-presented – she made a whole list of things on the wall that I was doing to personalize the classroom during a story that I wasn’t even aware of, so thanks for that, Laurie!]



29 thoughts on “Jobs for Kids”

  1. so glad you mentioned jobs. All of the jobs you mentioned work because they are meaningful to class success. some help you (counters, quiz writers, word chunkers), some help everyone in the class (pencil guys, bleaters and question word alerters, artists . . .).
    Two things I would tweak–they shouldn’t have to jealously guard the jobs. Everyone needs a job. You have 20-40 kids in a class, have 20-40 meaningful jobs–some of them can job share. Then everyone sees that everyone is needed to make the classroom work.
    I have one kid who is my “thinker.” She literally thinks for me when I have the mind farts that come at my age.
    Another is the greeter. Everyday I greet all my students at the door. But I realize you don’t have this luxury beyond your first period class. someone is always standing there with some kind of question. So on Mon. you stand with the week’s greeter and greet everyone and model the greeting phrase and secert handshake and the rest of the week some kid does it. This greeting stuff not only builds play into the room, but it connects the brain to “oh yeah, now I am in French class,” instead of bemoaning that SusieQ didn’t smile at him when she passed in the hallway. You also would like a gentle touch and eye contact if possible as it really cues the brain (and also helps the class see that no one is an untouchable). Pinky hugs are fine, chest hugs are not due to the age and they take a long time. Late kids may even show up to connect.
    The other thing is change up the jobs each month. That way people get to learn all the different tasks. And that teaches that no one person is any more important than the next. We are all unique and we all have a contribution to make.
    And while you reward jobs with points, I saw you give points out for brillancy in discussions too. That teaches extra points come with participation in this class and in unexpected ways. Be present with me and you might get a bonus.
    As I don’t grade, they just work for me because they love me and know I need their help. I can’t do it by myself.

  2. Kate,
    After watching you MC at NTPRS and now reading your contributions here, I have to tell you that you are one of my newest heroes. Your idea about having a “greeter” is brilliant (as are your other posts). I do have other classroom jobs, but this one is probably the most important, as well as being one that really should change often. I can see having one of the early arrivers being the first greeter of the year, and then that kid could be the one who stands in for a greeter whose previous class is too far to arrive early.
    I wish I could be in your classes. If you would be willing to share videos of yourself teaching, a lot of us would certainly benefit. In the meantime, I will be channeling the pieces I remember from your evening on stage and the openness of your heart here.

  3. You all need to know, I am the afterschool lady. I don’t grade. Not to say that I don’t know the IEPs of most of my 70+ students and aren’t working on them. I bridge home and school and I do it through hiring an amazing staff of folks who believe as I do that connection with adults is what is missing in many students lives.
    We teach workshops in interests that the students identify. Everything from cooking (they always want to eat), photography, dance, camping skills, running for fundraising, philosophy, art, mural painting, they name it and I find the talent. I work with students k-8 and I use conscious discipline as the guiding principle in how we operate with students. Because while all the classes are groovy, I am trying to build citizens of the future that can think and have an interest beyond the boob tube. I am the first person they see in the morning and the last one they see when they leave.
    What do I do while they are in school? Administrate the program. Work mentoring classroom teachers. And currently a research fellowship on the herstory of the Women in the Appalachicola band of the Mvskoke people (that would be my tribal town). My husband works for me at the school. He makes the best snacks. I work for him in our CSA (community supported agriculture business) which is on hiatus as I do my research. No one is boss for long in our house which makes this marriage work.
    I wrote into the research fellowship a component on language. Since our school stopped teaching languages as we can’t find anyone that does it through the multiple intelligences, I’ve been fostering a spot in afterschool.
    Imagine my surprise yesterday to find out that my ballet teacher majored in Russian and her gratitude when I pushed TPRS in a year into her hands. She is a former graduate of our school and Hands-On was her way to absorb knowledge. She said Russian had been tough but her best teacher only spoke in Russian and only accepted answers in Russian.
    I stumbled on Becky Bailey years ago when both of us were doing presentations on the child care circuit of conferences. We’ve been watching each other’s professional and personal growth for years. I was certainly thrilled when my school reached out for a common language and another staff member suggested Becky’s work.
    The rest is herstory as they say.

  4. Wow Kate. I am in awe. Our school this year is pioneering a few changes to better connect with all of our students, including putting in a 20 minute daily period that will usually be used for Silent Sustained Reading. In one of my favorite wrinkles to this, each Friday will be a sort of “club” day where students can go where they wish to participate in a number of activities determined by teacher’s interests: book club, woodworking club, spirit club, etc.. I’ll be running a boardgamers club (my wife and I are hardcore geeks) so I’m looking forward to this, but the skills involved in helping the students to learn to police–and reward–themselves are the real prize. I might pick your brain at some time on keeping those balls in the air.
    On the topic of jobs, I think this is a core area because in the public schools we simply don’t teach people to interact well in groups. I think more people wouldn’t mind, but they just don’t know how. Giving them pre-defined roles is the way to scaffold group interaction, because they can learn to see the value that a job plays in the group interaction. For that reason–building a whole student–I’m also in favor of varying the roles around so they can “try on different hats” as it were, and learn to contribute to the class in different ways.
    One additional job I’d suggest–sound effects guru. It’s not for everybody (and thus invalidating some of my last paragraph), but this person needs to be ready when called on to provide the sound of a motorcycle revving the engine, shoes squishing through mud, a sudden rainstorm, a creaking door, or whatever other details make the story come alive. It also provides a nice little brain break to test out a couple different takes on a sound before proceeding with a story. This job can be group-sourced or rotated, but when clicking it feels like you’re in an old-time radio play, and it really makes things fun.

  5. The Sound Effects Guru – dude now you are talking. I’ll just add that to the post on jobs, with your permission, Nathan. Wow. And that made me remember two more, the Door Knocker Person and the Door Ringer Person, both of whom can use apps (sp?) in their phones for those jobs. The Sound Effects Guru in my own classroom will get all the other sounds except those two special door sound jobs, which are described somewhere on my site or in a book – if anybody can track where those two jobs are described I would be grateful, so this list can get more complete.

  6. Nathan–
    I love the sound effects job. Wow. You can pick my brain anytime regarding jobs and afterschool programming. It is my passion to teach with a compassionate heart in out-of-school time (even when it is in-school). I get paid a lot less, but as I tell my staff, “be kind and remember those kids are going to grow up to be the people who wipe your butt in the nursing home and legislate your benefits packages. What do you need to model so they get it now?”

  7. Hi Ben,
    The jobs in the classroom is one of the more important things I got from my time at NTPRS that I plan to use in my classroom this year. I still haven’t been able to remove the sound “oooouwhere” from my ears. I want this for my students! On the list above you have “Quand-when” on the list. Does this have the same kind of sound reference? At NTPRS you explained that it is impossible to say the word “where” in English without making or saying “ooo” which is the sound made in French for the word where. (brilliant! Wish I had thought of it!). Thanks for explaining this.

  8. Hi Libby. No the QUAND…WHEN sound is like a blaring horn to end the work day in a factory. The kid assigned that job must have the kahunas to stand up without laughing (and the rest of the class can’t laugh either) and “become” a loud blare as in
    and then sit down like nothing happened. Think of a foghorn to contrast with the cuter OU…WHERE which goes up very high at the end after dipsy doodling around in sound for awhile. In one of my sessions there was a really brave QUAND person but I can’t remember which one.
    If you are reading this and it makes no sense, I am referring to jobs where kids have to stand up every single time I use those two question words in class, as a way to reinforce the sound in the kids deeper minds in class and, in the case of the OU Person, to differentiate (as we do with MAIS) from the other ou word in French.

  9. This post and comments gave me an idea, so I’m asking Ben to post it both so I can remember it when I come back to this later and for my German colleagues:
    Students often have a difficult time keeping “wo?” and “wer?” straight because of interference from English (the sounds of the words are the reverse of the meaning). So, I’m going to have a WO-person and a WER-person:
    1. WO-person will stand up and ask repeatedly, “wo? wo?” while looking about the room with an imaginary magnifying glass – under desks, in corners, in cupboards, etc.
    2. WER-person(s) have two possibilities
    a. Person points to other students in the room while asking “wer?”
    b. Person 1 stands and asks “wer?” while pointing to person 2, who strikes an elegant pose. Then person 2 does a Jekyll/Hyde transformation while person 1 asks (aghast) “wer?”
    Someday this will pay off when we get to werewolves because that’s a “werwolf” in German, and Christian Morgenstern wrote a great poem about a poor werewolf who was thrown into depression by a grammarian. Come to think of it, I need to introduce this poem to my students. Here are links: (German) (English “approach” by Max Knight)

  10. Robert,
    To keep myself straight I sing Julio Iglesias’ “Wo bist du?” to myself, picturing Julio searching for any number of the women in his life. ;o)
    with love,

  11. The WER-person could stand up with a life-sized cut-out of Herbert Hoover’s face and then say Who-WER? Of course, we’d have to pre-teach that the man was, in fact, a president. . . Or we could just keep them wondering all year Who is Who-WER. (okay it’s WAY too late to know if that is ridiculous or actually something I might do).
    Good night all,

  12. Julie you rock! I got my first belly laugh in like two weeks or maybe two months just now reading that. Your kids are very lucky to have a teacher with a sense of humor like that!

  13. Another job idea: I got this from Anne Matava last year at the Maine workshop. She has an “expert” in the class to go to when she needs help deciding on a detail in a story. Maybe there are three great ideas and she can’t chooose. She’ll go to the expert and whisper the choices to them and then the expert chooses. This person is “elected” by the rest of the class, or its just a person who is very obviously the expert. I tried this last year and it was great. (Anne- correct me if I am misrepresenting this job)

    1. That’s probably what I said, Elissa, but this year I have a few subtle, but important changes. I decided I don’t like the tone of “expert”, so I changed it to “professor”. Also, asking a class to vote is inviting a popularity contest, so I appoint the professor. It’s usually someone who is smart, slightly bored, and very shy.

  14. Finally did what I needed to do. Asked the kids who makes the most annoying sound. Purpose, to remind me to stop making asides in English. I told them, if I’m not holding my sign of the US flag and I’m not telling someone what something means, then wail on that sound after a maximum of 10 words. Held auditions, which were excellent. I’ve been careful to thank the person each time they sound off. The best is my special ed kid who does a kick ass cricket sound. I told the kids this is perfect because when I speak English, they’re not learning Spanish. And on top of it, hearing me speak English is _boring_ … **cricket**

  15. Ben explains it well someplace. He takes the French word mais, “but” and repeats the “ai” several times so that it sounds like a sheep’s bleat. The person who gets this job is the bleater.
    BTW, I haven’t done a lot with jobs, but I did designate a bleater in my level 1 class. We had three guys try out for the job, and one of them got it. Then he said he wouldn’t remember to bleat, so I designated three people around him to be “nudgers”. If I say aber (“but” in German), and he doesn’t say “a-a-a-a-a-a-ber”, then they nudge him as a reminder. Four jobs for the price of one.

  16. Thank you for the explanation. I understand what it is now, but now I’m confused as to why? Why is there a bleater for the word “but”?

  17. ben explains this somewhere too. There are at least three words that sound the same in French… mais, mes and mei(?). He has a student bleat mais to distinguish it from the others for the kids. It’s also a community builder because of the way that he handles it– the auditions, the inside joke when visitors come to the room, the fact that bleaters can be fired. It’s all very playful and helps set the tone for the class.

  18. Because there are four sounds like that in French: mes, mai, met, and mais (the last one means but which I use very often in CI) so to differentiate it from those other words of the same exact sound, we bleat. That is what I tell people, at least. The real reason is it’s fun.

    1. See? I said you were teaching students to play with the language! 🙂
      Aber isn’t going to be confused with anything else in German, but we had fun auditioning bleaters. We also had fun in 3/4/AP listening to a German sea shanty. Did you know that 19 September is “Talk Like a Pirate” Day? I shared some of the terminology with the class on Monday, and we had fun trying to talk like a German pirate. (Yes, the German had pirates, too. They were in the North and Baltic Seas.) Today we played the song. Even though the day has passed, here’s the URL for the splash page –
      Here’s the URL for the home page. On the left side of the page, click on the plus signs to get to other pages. (Click on “How to”, then choose the language you want)
      Das macht Spaß, beim Klabautermann! AAARRR!

      1. We had pirate day at our school for homecoming and we talked about how many eyes they had because a lot of kids were in full costume.

  19. I read Piratas with my 8th graders last year and we had a blast reading it and acting it out and so on as we went along. One issue did come up , however, with the subject of real Somali pirates. One of my Somali students wrote in a journal entry in Spanish that he didn’t like pirates at all…hmmm. This made me wonder if pirates is too loaded a subject because I have at least 3 Somali kids in my 8th grade class. Anyone else run into this issue?
    Another loaded issue that could arise in my classes is the focus on romantic relationships between men/women, boys/girls in the stories. Is there room in these stories for any reflection of the variety of relationships out there without turning same-sex relationships into “funny” aspect of a story? Has anyone run into this issue?

  20. Dude that is loaded for you but not for most of us. I wouldn’t touch that one if I had three Somali kids in my class. My issue with Pirates is the absolute degeneration of the plot about half way through, and how it is more of a middle school thing than a high school thing.
    The relationship aspect is loaded too but I’ve never run into it in class. I think I understand what Mira is doing at the end of that chapter, but I am not sure that this is the place to do it, in a TPRS reader. I don’t think that a level one class is going to bounce into an L2 discussion on that topic when they read what takes place as Jacques boards that one pirate ship and all the sailors look at him/her.
    I am just looking for a better novel to read, one that is less on the interest level of Pirates of the Caribbean and more on the level of Death Be Not Proud, a book that causes kids to actually think and identify instead of just trying to follow the plot.
    Maybe I am asking too much in a first year reader, but then maybe it can be written, or has been already and we are just waiting for it. But I am sure that a book with the properly limited vocabulary base and yet one that grabs a kid’s attention is not an easy thing to do or it would have been done already and we would be using it.

  21. I have a great story I wrote years ago for my Advanced Spanish Composition class that I’ve been recently thinking about trying to adapt into a TPRS reader. It has a lot of culture in it but it is a “horror” story. I was watching a lot of imported Asian horror movies at that time so I took a lot of ideas from movies like “The Ring”. I came across the paper a couple of weeks ago and read it again and I can’t believe how good the story was!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben