I have had several teachers email me and ask how I keep my room so clean and organized. To tell you the truth, I struggle like the rest of you. By the end of the school year, my room feels dirty. It is not unusual to find piles of crayons, pencils, papers, game pieces, letter tiles, math manipulatives, and so much more accidentally shoved under all of the furniture in my classroom!
Can we really avoid the mess? Well, I try. I do expect my students to clean up after themselves. I do expect them to keep their desks neat and tidy. I do expect them to clean up and put all of the materials away correctly. I am sure all of you do too. I think dirty rooms at the end of the year are inevitable. However, I have found a secret weapon to motivate my students to clean up quickly, quietly, and put away everything so that it appears clean and organized! Do you know the game Barrel of Monkeys? Well… I use the monkeys as motivators to clean the room and to transition quickly! I hang the monkeys from my table signs above each table.
Transition time used to be dreadful. I would wait for my students to clean up, but some children never moved, some children continued to stay engaged in their activity or assignment, some were chasing each other around the room, and I would only have a handful of students that actually cleaned up and did what I asked them to do. Does this sound familiar? It seemed like I waited FOREVER for the room to get picked up and ready to move to the next activity. With my monkey method, all of that is eliminated.
Here is how it works…when it is time to transition, I tell my students that I am looking for “clean and quiet tables.” I swear, they MOVE and they move quickly – this is because they are motivated by a MONKEY! I will often walk around as the kids are cleaning up and make a big deal over certain tables. I point out their cleanliness, their organized baskets on their desk, and their trash-free floors. I usually choose the table that gets clean, quiet, and organized the quickest. Within a short period of time, I have a clean classroom and silent children with their heads resting quietly on their desks…. AHHHH….heaven.
When a table receives ten monkeys, they are allowed to pick out a prize out of my prize basket at the end of the day. I am not one to give out prizes all of the time, so I stretch it out as long as I can. It might take a couple weeks for a table to get ten monkeys.
This little trick has helped me keep my sanity and it makes teaching more enjoyable. I no longer struggle with transitions and my classroom is clean and orderly once again!