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Teaching Strategies to Instill Responsibility

Janelle Cox

Being responsible is something that every child needs to learn. Many of today’s children lack this skill because it’s easy for parents and teachers to do everything for them. However, using teaching strategies to educate children on this important life skill isn’t just about having children complete a task, it’s about empowering them to make responsible choices and having pride in themselves to accomplish something on their own. Here are a few teaching strategies to instruct your students this essential life skill.

Teaching Strategies that Model Responsibility

The first and most important thing that you can do to teach students responsibility is to model it yourself. As a teacher, you are a role model. Your students are always watching your every move. So if you want your students to pick up after themselves, then they need to see you do it to. Keep your classroom neat and organized, pick up after yourself, and be punctual and dependable. By building your own practice of responsibility within your classroom, you are showing students how it should be done.

Provide Clear Expectations

Provide structure so that your students know what is expected of them. For example, if you want the desks clean without supplies on top of them, then take a photograph of what that should look like and show your students. Without a set of clear expectations, your classroom will be filled with students that don’t know what to do. However, when you provide a structured classroom where all students are clear about how you want things to go, then you’ll find that your classroom will run much smoother.

Provide Clear Consequences that Match the Responsibility

Even with a set of direct classroom expectations, you will still have a few students who will lack responsibility. For these students, you will need to provide a clear set of consequences. For example, if your expectation is for students to always have a clean, non-messy desk, and you see that it’s messy, then their consequence is to clean it. Or, if a student just leaves their library books on a table when they should be put on the classroom library bookshelf, their consequence is to put them back where they belong. There must always be a consequence for a students’ lack of responsibility.

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Assign Classroom Jobs

Every classroom has a list of tasks that need to be done every day. A great way to take the workload off of yourself is to give your students the responsibility of a classroom job. Create a system where every student is assigned a job. You can assign students the job of cleaning off the desktops, collecting papers, filing paperwork, sharpening pencils, organizing your classroom library, or anything that is on your to-do list.

Praise Students for Being Responsible

When you see that your students are rising to the occasion, then praise them for being responsible. Make it known in your classroom that when you see a student doing the right thing, they will get praise for it. This will help the students that lack responsibility to try and earn some responsibility. The more that you openly praise students, the more you’ll see students trying to rise to the occasion.

Try the Jigsaw Method

The jigsaw cooperative learning method is a cooperative leaning strategy that challenges students to work together to achieve a common goal. In order for the task to be completed, all students within in the group must do their part. So essentially, students cannot achieve their goal unless each group member has done her part in the task. This is a strategy where the groups will be responsible for learning the material on their own. It is a simple-yet-effective way to reinforce the importance of responsibility.

Make it a Challenge

A great way to teach responsibility to elementary students is to focus on one specific way that students can be responsible, and show them that you’re looking for it. For example, if you noticed that students desks’ are always messy, then challenge students to see who can keep the cleanest desk for the week. If you noticed that the majority of your students were having a hard time remembering to hand in their homework, then challenge students to be responsible for handing in their homework on time.

Keep Revisiting the Topic

The key to teaching responsibility is to keep talking about it. Post signs about responsibility in your classroom, play games about it, and try and talk about daily. By keeping it in the limelight, students will realize how important it is.

Assign Daily Responsibilities

A great way to teach responsibility to your students, while showing them how important it is to be responsible, is to assign daily tasks. Group students together into small groups and assign each group a specific task to get done for that day. For example, one group’s task can be to sort out the classroom library, while another group’s task can be to complete their art project. At the end of the week, have students chart their own progress and compare it to the week before.

Avoid Giving Rewards

Lastly, avoid giving your students a reward. They do need to be rewarded in order to learn responsibility. It is far more effective to praise students when you see them being responsible than to have a reward chart. While some children may thrive on getting rewarded, it’s not necessary for them to learn responsibility.  If you find that some student are going above and beyond what they are expected, a nice treat can then be awarded.

Responsibility is a character trait that is essential to learn and to have. It is our job as educators to teach this trait so that students are able to thrive not only in the classroom, but in life as well.

How do you teach elementary students reasonability? Please share your teaching strategies with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your thoughts and opinion on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.