How do you foster student responsibility in the classroom?
As a National Board Certified teacher, these are the 9 best classroom management tips I have tried and tested over the years and can promise you to work.
I have developed these techniques over my 19-year teaching career, improving and refining them over time.
These tips are all part of an ongoing effort to build lifelong habits, bring out the best in children, and help students maximize their amazing potential.
So let’s get right into them.
The 9 Best Classroom Management Tips to Foster Student Responsibility
1) Be a Consistent Model
The most powerful way for adults to teach any character trait to children is to serve as a living embodiment of that idea.
Children are paying close attention to us, and our actions speak louder than our words.
To help children develop responsibility, we need to demonstrate it ourselves.
Among other things, this means taking the initiative to solve problems, rather than complain about them.
Also important is taking responsibility for own our actions, rather than attempt to place blame or make excuses.
2) Establish a Sense of Purpose
Children will be more likely to take responsibility for their learning when they understand the multiple purposes they serve in school.
Responsibility comes more naturally when kids find meaning in their work.
I make a concerted effort at the beginning of each school year to show my students how working hard and doing well in school improves their lives and maximizes their future options.
The process of writing a class mission statement helps us identify these purposes and produces an excellent reference point that we review throughout the year.
3) Let Students’ Actions and Choices Determine Their Opportunities
Author Angela Watson believes that teachers need to convey the message to students that their actions and choices influence our actions and choices.
Explicitly making this point helps children understand the power that they have to shape the direction of the class.
Say, for example, that they want to do more cooperative learning.
They can create more opportunities for themselves by behaving responsibly and doing a great job during initial cooperative learning activities.
Student motivation skyrockets when they know that the choices they make matter and that they will be held accountable for their behavior.
4) Reduce the Use of Extrinsic Rewards
Though extremely popular and prevalent, the use of rewards to manage student behavior presents a whole host of problems for classroom teachers.
Alfie Kohn describes these drawbacks in detail in his well-known book, Punished By Rewards.
One of the main problems associated with the use of rewards is that they have the effect of controlling student behavior.
Consequently, rewards thwart our efforts to help kids develop responsibility because individuals cannot exercise self-control when we control their actions like this.
We don’t want their actions being dependent on the expectation of a reward.
The goal is to help foster classroom responsibility, which drives their actions instead.
5) Use Think-Starters
Imagine Randy hands me a paper without his name at the top.
If I tell him to write his name before turning in his work, it would be an example of what legendary educator Madeline Hunter calls a “think-stopper.” This is because I am telling Randy what to do.
Instead, I say, “Randy, what do you need to do before turning in your work?” That would be a “think-starter,” because I am putting the responsibility on Randy.
By asking rather than telling, I increase Randy’s future capacity and make it more likely that he will take responsibility next time for remembering what to do.
6) Encourage “Meta-Cognitive” Thinking
Goal-setting, reflection, and self-evaluation help students better understand their strengths and weaknesses and get to know themselves as learners on a deeper level.
Once children develop this keen level of self-awareness, they are more motivated to take responsibility for their learning and commit themselves to improve their work and behavior.
Because time is such a precious commodity in our classrooms these days, we may not be able to do as many of these metacognitive activities as we wish.
Still, we should strive to incorporate meaningful opportunities to set goals, reflect, and self-evaluate into our day as often as we can.
7) Don’t Do Things for Students that They Can Do for Themselves
Every day I walk with a group of students to the cafeteria.
When we arrive, the first two kids in line get our lunch cards and pass them out to everybody else.
I could distribute the cards myself, but I believe it is essential for the children to take on as much responsibility as they can handle throughout the school day.
By empowering them in this manner, we provide natural opportunities for children to take the initiative, solve problems independently, and foster classroom responsibility.
8) Recognize Noteworthy Student Efforts
Every year, I have a few students who sit passively at their desks when they encounter difficulty.
They don’t take the responsibility to solve their own problems or get the help they need.
It might be difficult to foster classroom responsibility when kids are not willing to participate.
One great way to show these children an alternative approach is to recognize examples of students who take charge and demonstrate responsibility.
Hearing about how their classmates handle challenging situations can be far more powerful than listening to a teacher’s explanation.
Plus, this type of recognition can have a terrific effect on class chemistry and help the kids see one another as helpful and collaborative resources of learning together.
9) Share Personal Stories to Inspire Children
Storytelling is an incredibly powerful teaching strategy because the emotional connection the kids make with the messages we convey enables them to remember our words for a long time.
To help children become more responsible, we can share stories from our own lives.
Tell them about times you took action to solve a problem, reach a goal, or overcome an obstacle.
Sharing personal stories also deepens the bond we have with our students.
These are the 9 best classroom management tips I have used and polished up to foster classroom responsibility.
Have I convinced you to try them?
Do let me know!
Try these 9 best classroom management tips to foster student responsibility in class with your pupils or at home with your children. Teaching children to be responsible for themselves and their actions is a lesson they will benefit from throughout life.
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher, author, and speaker in Santa Monica, CA. He has written several books for educators and parents, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time, Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, and the soon-to-be-released Rock It! Steve is also the creator of the award-winning Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. For Teaching Tips, articles, and other valuable resources and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit www.stevereifman.com. Follow Steve on Twitter (@stevereifman), subscribe to his “Teaching Kids” YouTube channel, check out his two professional development courses for educators on Udemy.com, and visit his TeachersPayTeachers page.
[ Updated – October 8, 2020 ]