Homeroom is a perfect place to build relationships with your students in a non-academic setting! It can also be the time that turns into chaos because either you don’t have a plan for it, or you are overwhelmed with the number of permission slips you have to collect and track. Both are true for me!
Homeroom is often the last thing I think about, but I have found that my school day and school year is so much more successful when I have taken the time to make the most of my homeroom. Whether your homeroom is 30 minutes or 15 minutes, here are a couple of ideas.
1. Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.)
This is my favorite one by far! On days where you are having to pass out papers from the front office or you are needing to collect and track the variety of permission slips that never end, students reading silently makes your job so much easier. I like to keep Scholastic Magazines available for students to grab and read because they are super engaging, even for your most reluctant reader. Incredible graphics, interesting stories, and real-world connections are just a few of the benefits, you can find out more about what’s included here (including their powerful online tools).
As a math teacher, I have a subscription to the Scholastic Math magazines, but did you know that they also have a Scholastic Choices magazine with teen life skills and health content? Check out this post on how you can get a Scholastic Magazine subscription through Donor’s Choose.
2. Character Building/Community Circles
I use community circles to build community and character amongst the students in my advisory. We decide on norms for how we have discussions (this is key) and then I ask a question that we go around in a circle and answer. The questions can be super light-hearted (if you had a superpower, what would it be and why?) or a little deeper (what is the biggest challenge that you are facing?). You have to gauge the maturity of your students, but it does help you know your students better and for them to know you better.
3. GPA and College Preparation
To invest students in their grades, I talk about what grade point average means and what is required to get into various universities. Because I live in Austin, many students want to go to the University of Texas, which requires a GPA requirement of 3.75. After I teach decimal operations, every Wednesday students receive a progress report, and they calculate their GPA. To make it even more impactful, I have a list of colleges on the tracker. Their middle school GPA might not count towards college yet, but there is no time like the present to invest students in their learning and grades.
4. Genius Hour/Tech Time
If you have access to technology, then homeroom can be a great way to incorporate technology into your classroom with a little more flexibility and less fear that the entire lesson will go awry! My friend Kristin uses a Tech Time model in her classroom and raves about the kids engagement! Using Flipgrid, students can make a video that is up to a minute-and-a-half long (love that time limit) and are able to watch other students’ videos. She used it to have students create introductions of themselves at the beginning of the year and then incorporates it as a way for students to share a book review.
5. Paper EVERYTHING
Tracking permission slips and papers that need to go home and be returned is not an easy task. The task is made even harder when students fail to return papers, thus creating a cycle of frustration for us teachers. Using home room to help with papers has made my life SO much easier. If I don’t have to chase down papers, then I can use homeroom for the fun stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are always one or two students, but this sure beats 10 students.
6. Student Helpers
I do not recommend this every day, but middle school students love helping! Designate some “teachers aids” who have a dedicated job that they are capable of doing on their own. This could be: updating student work bulletin boards, feeding a class pet, double checking attendance, writing the objective on the board for you, or a variety of other things.
7. College Pride
I saved my favorite for last. My school’s homerooms are all named after the college the homeroom teacher attended. I went to Texas A&M University, so I refer to my students as A&M. I have a wall of A&M memorabilia, including a flag. Fridays are Flag Friday. I award a student who has shown the values of A&M that week by highlighting a specific action that I saw. The student is awarded with the school flag and they get to wear the flag as a cape for the rest of the class. My students love it and are super invested! Every Friday, they ask “Who is wearing the flag?” as soon as they walk in the door.
This list is not exclusive, but they are the things that I do regularly in my homeroom. In an ideal week I do a wide variety of the items above- Paperwork is usually passed out on Mondays, D.E.A.R. happens the day I collect paperwork so it varies, GPA is tracked on Wednesdays, Thursday is reserved for community circles, and Friday is for building college pride through Flag Friday. It is a flexible schedule that changes based on what we have going on that week. What are the ways that you use your homeroom?
I’m only in my second year teaching and I would love to implement community circles with my class I have for SSR every day. Did you do a lot to prepare the kids at first? Or did you simply have them share and brainstorm norms and then start with a few questions? I’d love to know how structured you made it. I’ve looked up restorative community circles and many people emphasize that it requires lengthy initial process that just seems too much of a hassle.
I was just curious to see how you set up norms and structured it. Thank you! I love your blog and all of the posts on organization. The weekly worksheet is a life saver.
Noelle Pickering says
Hi Emily! That is a great question! We will add that to our ideas for blog post, as it can easily be incorporated in a classroom. Thanks!