Establishing Culture and Community through the Houses Systems

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 12, 2020, 11:30 a.m.

The Why

Professional collaboration was at play two weeks ago when I went to my fellow teacher (and sister-in-law) Christe Montgomery to ask for ideas for building community and managing behavior. She suggested the Ron Clark Academy house system that her school implements. It sounded fun and engaging, so I rallied the troops in 4th grade and we went for it. It was a hit very quickly. The house system teaches teamwork, responsibility, teamwork, friendship, and leadership.

The What

The house system comes from the Harry Potter book and movie where students are sorted into four houses. We decided to go with the Harry Potter houses and theme for our students. We sorted students randomly and placed them into either Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Slytherin, or Ravenclaw. We did this so that they would be in a house with others from different homeroom classes. We showed a 2 minute clip from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to show students what we were doing. Each teacher on our team leads a house. I am the Ravenclaw house lead.

Each student came up to the Smartboard and pressed play to hear a clip from the sorting hat (on Harry Potter) to hear which house they had been selected for. The students were SO excited to get their time in the spotlight. Students were congratulating new housemates as they were announced. It was really cool to see.

We are also using Ron Clark’s Essential 55 rules during our morning meeting each day. We focus on two rules per week. Rules range from #1 "saying yes ma'am and no sir when speaking to adults" to #9 "always say thank you when something is given." Students can earn points when we see them demonstrating the essentials.

The How

When our amazing team decided to implement a house system, we first created a board in our hallway to display house points. We update it every Monday morning before students arrive to show whose house is leading. Students are so excited to come on Mondays and see who is in the lead. We also have point boards in our classrooms that we update daily. We add all of our points together (4 classes) on Friday afternoons and that is the totals that go on our community board in the hallway.

Students earn points for their houses by:

  • Being on task

  • Completing classwork

  • Attendance

  • Kind actions

  • Encouragement

  • Working together

  • Listening and sharing

  • Above and beyond work

  • Focused and engaged

  • Organization

  • Using manners

We have challenges with points that our students are working towards together. Here are a few:

  • When all houses earn 150 points collectively = 15 minute extra recess

  • The first house to earn 200 points = Treasure Chest Pick in their homeroom class

  • All houses earn 1000 points collectively = Popcorn Party

On Fridays, we hold 15 minute meetings with each house to discuss successes, struggles, and a plan to earn more points for that house. This is such a cool opportunity to build community within a grade level and also getting meet other students who may not be in your class.

For added effect, I have a watching magic Owl in the corner of my classroom. The students love having a magic owl who is watching for opportunities to give points. The owl is from the book Harry Potter (chapter 1).

We wanted to build a learning community that was visible to all and encouraged collaboration. After all, these are OUR students and we want them to know they have an impact on the community.

As an 11 year veteran teacher, Randi Anderson is teaching 4th grade ELAR in Van Alstyne ISD this year. She has spent the last 6 years working as an instructional coach with schools across the U.S. Prior to this she taught third and fourth grade in the Fort Worth, Texas area. Be sure to follow her on Twitter @randinanderson or on Facebook

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

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Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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