Imagine this. Student's managing their behaviors and holding each other accountable. Community groups of learning and teamwork happening on a daily basis. Constructive criticism and healthy competition all in a classroom community atmosphere.
Does this all sound like a utopian classroom that doesn't exist? It's not and can totally be your classroom by initiating a house system!
If you have ever seen or read any of the Harry Potter movies or books then you probably have an understanding of what houses look like. Each student was sorted into a house once they arrived by sitting underneath the sorting hat. Same concept applies in the classroom although I do not use a sorting hat, albeit that would be awesome if I could!
Houses give students an opportunity to be a part of a group, a team, a family. This sets students and faculty up for unity across grade levels as well as in individual classrooms and helps to improve behavior in the building by having students and faculty form a sense of community and culture. Older students have the opportunity to be leaders and positive role models for younger students as well!
The great thing that I love about houses is the ability it creates for you as the teacher to handle less behavior issues as students start to take on leadership roles and behaviors are handled amongst peers. Peer pressure can be a good thing!
The Reality of a House System In Your Classroom
First things first. The house system can be used concurrently with any other behavior system that is already set up in your school. It works hand in hand!
At the beginning of the year I talk a lot about how our classroom is our home away from home. We are one big happy family and we talk a lot about what that looks/sounds/feels like. I am not naive to think that all of my students will be peaceful with each other each and everyday and there will be rainbows and sunshine coming through our window. No. There will be arguments, disagreements, and words that are unkind being used. Having a house system in place has helped my students overcome these situations more quickly because they have the support of their house and peers to help mediate and/or have conversations with.
How Do I Set Up a House System In My Classroom?
You will need a few things to set up your house system...
Amount of houses you will have and names of each
A spot where you can display house crests as well as the amount of points each house currently has (my suggestion is somewhere/something that can be written on with dry erase marker!)
How you will sort your students (Real house wheel, Virtual house wheel, House "golden tickets" put into envelopes.)
I talk A LOT about our houses the first week of school. I want to set the scene for my students and get them pumped up and excited for the sorting ceremony! I like to have control over how many students are in each house so I do not sort them by a real/virtual wheel. You totally could though! Wordwall.net is a great site you can use to create your own House Sorting Wheel. I actually use it to create a spinner for house points. Check out the photo to see what ours looks like. You can put any amounts on your wheel
How We Sort Into Houses
I print off each of these house golden tickets. I print enough for the students in my class to be divided up equally into 4 houses. Our house names are based on the 4 pillars of our school. You can create your house names based on character traits, schools pillars, or skills you want your students to learn and have. The sky is the limit!
Example of a House Golden Ticket
On the day of house sorting I have all of my students meet in our meeting space and pump them up about the big day. We discuss what each pillar stands for, which houses have previously won in years past and when they find out what house they are in they should be excited and celebrate with their housemates!
I pass out an plain white envelope to each student randomly and on the count of three they open their envelope to reveal their house! The excitement, squeals, and laughter is contagious! From there, the house point race begins.
How Do You Earn House Points?
Just as sports teams earn points so do houses! The key to house points is to remember that house points can only be given out and never taken away. I talk strongly with my students about this. We have weekly house meetings to discuss what they are doing great at, what things they could work on and to give each other encouragement and an incentive to work hard!
I give out house points all day long and by give out there is no physical things to actually give them. I mean we are teachers, we already have our hands full! Let's say a student who typically has a tough time with morning transitions just nails them one day without being prompted I would give that student house points. How many? That golden gem is yours to decide! For that situation I may say "I love how X got all of his morning routine completed without being prompted today so I give green house 25 points!" The pride on that students face is awesome to see and the encouragement from his house given to him is priceless!
You have a student help you pass out take home folders, 10 points for your house. A other student cleans up a mess not made by them, 15 points for your house. You have an entire house that returns their library books, 35 points for your house! The beauty of house points is that they can literally be made up on the fly! I keep track of all points given on a white board and update points at the end of each day.
How Does One House Win It All?
This quesiton is simple. Have the most points by the end of the year. This is how it works in our classroom. House with the most points gets a party on the last day of school. You could do quarterly awards for most points if you wanted to as well! Your reward for the house with the most points is totally up to you!
Let Me Help You Get It Done!
If you are wanting to start a house system in your classroom or school make sure to grab the How To Get Started Guide that gives you concrete examples and reasons that are great to hand to admin or co-workers!
Another great example of the House System in action is The Ron Clark Academy. If you ever get the chance to go to their wonderful school for a PD you have to go! It was one of the best PD's I've ever been to. RCA is located in Georgia and is a 4-8 school.
Grab the How To Guide Below To Get Started!