Saint-Didier primary school
Cycle 1: The chores
The class is as much a living area as a workplace. The desired goal of a living, active community, is achieved by implementing a framework conducive to the development of a group personality in each child, an essential component for their internal development and for learning.
In the class, needs arise and change rapidly and, if not addressed, they have a negative effect on the personal or collective activities of the community members. The framework is based on a fundamental principle of the utmost importance: children are able to come up with their own solutions to problems, and furthermore, they are willing to modify them so that they are practicable. The children, thus empowered:
a) link what they do to what is implemented;
b) fully grasp the meaning of 'collective': serving the class group for everyone's benefit;
c) understand that the collective is for everyone: every child becomes an integral part of the collective yet each member remains an individual thinking about and for him/herself and the group.
Over the first few weeks of the year, a sophisticated framework is put into place with the children. This framework effectively ensures that projects initiated to ensure normal functioning of the class remain viable throughout the school year. Projects meet various needs:
- running Talk Time;
- redistributing Talk Time objects;
- counting everyone;
- updating the weather board;
- managing the monthly calendar;
- tidying up after the unsupervised morning work group;
- handing out snacks;
- announcing snack time;
- managing the queue during excursions away from the school;
- overseeing use and putting away of tricycles;
- watering the plants;
feeding the fish.
Specific chores have been developed to address each of these life or learning situations. At the beginning of each week, usually on Monday, an activity leader is assigned to each chore, and he or she has to perform that chore for the whole week. The procedure is as follows:
After welcoming each child individually and completing morning rituals, I announce in a serious tone to the assembled children, 'Now we will start the division of chores'.
I pick up the chore box containing a label for each child, like this one:
I pick a label at random, which I then show to the group and announce, for example: "Victoria, do you agree to divide the chores for this week?" If Victoria does not accept, I pick another label, and ask another child. The children rarely refuse this role however.
If Victoria agrees, she stands in front of the group, while I move away, outside of the circle.
Victoria then begins the division of chores by taking out a label from the box, which is placed on a chair. She shows the label to the group, then asks the person concerned, "Pierrot, which chore do you want to do?"
On the chores board behind Victoria, Pierrot indicates, either by gesture or speaking (the manner depends on the age), the chore that he wants to perform for the week.
Victoria sticks Pierrot's label next to the corresponding chore (the labels are Velcro-backed for this purpose) then repeats the whole process until no more labels are left.
I then officially close the process with an announcement: "The division of chores is closed".
Other important points :
Labels of children who are absent or who refuse to do a chore are placed on the chair next to the box.
The box also contains labels for Marie-Odile, the nurse assistant for the class, and me because the adults are also members of the class community, and so are equally affected by the chores. This also reinforces the raison d'κtre of the whole exercise.
The chores board is flexible: the activity leaders change every week, chores may be added or removed according to the children's wishes (via Talk Time or the Class Council).
Some chores require several activity leaders. For example, four children are involved in the distribution of snacks.
For some chores, depending on the age of the activity leader, help may be provided, if needed, by an older child or one of the adults.
In exceptional cases, some chores may not be assigned to very young children, according to rules that have been made explicit and justified to the group. Currently, the chore 'Managing the queue' may not be assigned to two children aged 2-3 years at the same time.
The smooth running of the procedure takes a bit of time. The pace should be dictated by the class, in order for it to make sense and for the children to fully integrate it. It should never be forced on the children. Thus, the chores are not assigned on the basis of the children's abilities. When the abilities of a child are wanting, ie a chore is not done or done 'badly', insofar as it bothers the class group, the only possible response to this situation is to link cause and effect in the child's mind. This offers the child an opportunity to better understand the meaning of commitments undertaken for the group.
In this way, the framework fulfils its desired purpose: to be a tool for the community members while also promoting their personal development and growth.
page has been translated from French by Andreas Theodorou.