When The Student Becomes The Teacher

the student becomes the teacher

Managing a classroom or any space with many kids can be a real challenge. After all, you may need to oversee classroom objects, organize paperwork, keep things tidy, and be a good role model for your students. This is especially true with young learners and active classrooms. One great way to lighten the task load is to get your students involved in the teaching process. In other words, watch how your student becomes the teacher! Assigning various jobs in the homeroom helps everyone learn (and teach) all at once. In this blog, we highlight some of the best reasons for taking this approach in class, whether it’s a physical or online classroom.


Benefits of Role Play in the Classroom


The idea of children learning through responsibility goes back ages. In fact, it’s been a natural system of learning amongst families since families have been around! Children are always looking for a purpose amongst the group. Encouraging them to participate in even the most mundane task creates a feeling of inner reward. This understanding extends out of the community of family and into the community of the classroom.  


As far back as the 1960s, childhood education has understood the importance of when the student becomes the teacher. Take Seattle Public School elementary assistant Audrianna Allen for example. She wrote a book appropriately titled “Children as Teachers,” which supports this idea in full. In short, a tight-knit community or group can have positive effects on learning. Bonnie Coggeshall of St. John Fisher College detailed a report underlying these benefits. In groups where students were assigned roles, less time was spent on tasks, and participation was improved.


How Student Roles in the Classroom Affect Learning


Let’s demonstrate how assigning classroom roles may help in an actual situation: Your student, Jim, is impulsive and can never sit still. He’s always walking over to another desk, speaking out of turn, and doing small mischievous deeds when he shouldn’t. His goal is to get the attention that he can’t always have. Unfortunately, misbehaving is a great way to get attention — it certainly gets more attention than doing otherwise! 


This dilemma is super common for teachers and can be quite the headache. That’s when you can use the power of assigning student roles in the classroom. If Jim loves attention, try satisfying his need by putting it to good use. Find a task that only he will be responsible for. Use it as positive reinforcement toward his good behavior. Not only will assigning a classroom role give him the most attention from both teacher and classmates, it will also add a healthy level of responsibility.


This technique doesn’t only work for students like Jim. If there’s any child who is shy and underrepresented within the classroom, a job can be beneficial. This invites an opportunity to share and contribute in non-verbal ways. It also builds confidence and leadership where it may be lacking. Most of all, assigning roles lends accountability to the whole. With that, students begin to look for validation amongst one another instead of the teacher. This is one of the first and last steps for creating a strong, self-governing community of young learners.



Role Play In The Classroom


Namely, there are two kinds of classroom roles and responsibilities — those with and without supervision. While some roles are better off supervised, it’s a great benefit for most roles to be unsupervised. This reinforces the principles we’ve addressed earlier. Here are a few of the best roles to give students:


  • Line Leader – Walks at the front of the line
  • Line Ender – Walks at the back of the line
  • Little Teacher – Explains New Topics or Reviews Watch how the student becomes the teacher!
  • Bookkeeper – makes sure everything is in place after playtime, reading time, etc.
  • Table Cleaner – after snacks or meals
  • Handout Helper
  • Plant Waterer
  • Window Monitor – opens and closes windows
  • Board Eraser
  • Lights Monitor
  • Homework Helper


In our classes, we especially enjoy it when the student becomes the teacher. The “teacher” role for young learners is quite important. Try starting the class off by assigning the “little teacher” role. Perhaps the little teacher can start off by explaining how to solve math problems, pretending he/she is the teacher. This method also helps children relate. You’ll be amazed by how quickly children will begin solving problems on their own just from fitting into the teacher role!


Also, here are some other considerations to keep in mind when assigning children as little teachers in the classroom:


  • Some jobs are harder than others. Know when to assign temporary or permanent jobs, and choose the kids for each job carefully.


  • Be sure to assign one job to multiple students if need be. These helpers can rotate responsibility throughout the week or day.


  • Have the job of ‘substitute’ in case someone is absent on any given day.


  • Aside from jobs, always encourage questioning and open-expression within the classroom. Ask ‘what if’ questions to rouse inquisitive thinking and allow organized play often.