As I am sure you know, this year is offering us, teachers, quite the challenge. Whether it be traditional, hybrid, or online I still wanted to be able to include a house system into my class, as I swear by it, and I think it adds a little fun for the kids. I have been getting this question quite a bit, and I wanted to create a space for all my teacher friends that are going digital this school year. I highly recommend you read this post first if you have never heard of a house system because you might be confused if you start here.
First Week of School
Our school decided to start the year off with distance learning and I started to panic because I still wanted a way to connect with my students and to make the year fun. My previous students loved the house system and I wanted to make sure I included it in some way even online.
My first week of school my plan is to still do a house sort, however, this, of course, will be on zoom. I typically make a PowerPoint anyways, so not much is changing there. I am going to screen share my PowerPoint so all the kids can see who is sorted where. I will then assign a team builder for the kids to do where they discuss their strengths and what makes them similar, a little ice breaker so they can know each other a little better and get comfortable, and the opportunity to select their house leader! (Can be done via breakout rooms on zoom, or scheduled zoom times per group).
I went ahead and creating a landing page for our house system on a google site and will be linking it to our Canvas site. On this website, kids will find information about their house, all the links for house meetings, live points, and where they can see the prizes for the month. I gave each house their own section where they have a house lounge, description of their house, and just a place to feel like home.
Obviously receiving and losing house points will be slightly different, but I am planning on handing them out for completing assignments, good speaking skills, having self-control, being on time, and being respectful on our zoom meetings. They lose points for obviously turning in things late and being unprepared for our meetings. I keep track of points on ClassDojo for multiple reasons. First of all, its great parent communication. They will be able to see what their child earned or lost points for as well as an easy way for me to see their points. At the end of each day (in the beginning, and it slowly turns into the end of the week) I tally to points and type them into a google form. That form is connected to the slide on our website and will refresh the points so they can see the standings. FYI on ClassDojo I clear the points out at the end of the month to make it easier to add but keep the points in my form so it's always a running total
The reason I do daily at the beginning is so we can get points on the board, and typically you give more points out as you're training the kids on what the expectations are. As they learn the expectations, I don't give them out as freely because that's what is expected.
In the real world, as a class, we would have house games once a week as a reward for completing what needed to be done and to really build a class community. I still am planning on doing this, but after our Friday class meeting via zoom. It will be a quick game like a scavenger hunt, trivia game, Kahoot, or Gimkit, or a task such as create a cheer or chant. The goal is for a little Friday fun, and to just bond with the class. Winners of the house game will get to spin our wheel (which was made on wheelofnames.com).
All in all, you want this to be a way to connect students. Maybe do lunch bunches with each house throughout the first weeks to connect them and yourself to the students. I don't know about you guys, but March distance learning was no problem because I knew my kids. Starting off the year not knowing a single one scares me to my core, hence why I am honestly going to probably not teach much curriculum for at least the first two weeks. I am focusing solely on connection and relationships, and to me, a house system is exactly what I am intending.