ATA Magazine

A tale of four houses

Stepping back leads to students stepping up

5 children faced away from the camera wearing different coloured superhero capes with hearts, lightning bolts and shields on the back.

At the beginning of each school year, I always place my students into four organizational “house groups.” Then I assign things like class jobs weekly to a house group and I don’t micromanage anything. As long as the job is done right, I don’t care if the whole group does it, they take turns, etc. This way, I eliminate any worry about someone being absent, as there are usually about six kids per house group.  

Yes, I'm a Harry Potter fan, but I also spent two years teaching in England, where I experienced house groups and their benefits first-hand! This system creates natural leaders and encourages everyone to recognize that each individual plays a part in the largercommunity and must pull their own weight. Some years the kids create the groups and some years I do. 

This year, I grouped them into four Disney groups: pink Minnie Mouse, purple Daisy Duck, blue Donald Duck and peach Mickey Mouse. This system has worked for every classroom I’ve been in for the last 12 years of my 28 years of teaching. I believe the reason it has worked is that children want to be seen and heard, and when they have expectations that are routine, they will always step up to the plate. The moment they realize the classroom belongs to them,
not me “the teacher," then the magic can happen. 

Wooden statue of micky mouse in a wizards hat and holding a wand.


I’ve also enjoyed watching the "unexpected," when a quiet child steps in to help a fellow group member or a child who struggles with organization
and suddenly realizes they need to be responsible so that their group can rely on them. Students experience so many life skills in the simple act of me letting go of being “in charge.”  

Reaching all these goals takes some practice and patience, but every year, by the end of September, I can generally take a step back and allow the system to run. 

“This system creates natural leaders and encourages everyone to recognize that each individual plays a part in the larger community.”

Profile picture of red haired women with glasses, smiling.
Naomi Holmes

Naomi Holmes has been teaching in Sturgeon School Division for 21 years. She enjoys teaching in collaboration with her co-workers and continues to integrate technology into her classroom. She’s enjoyed running the musical theatre program at her school for the last 14 years but also takes time to relax by building Harry Potter Lego.

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