New homeroom ideas can transform an old tradition into a warm and welcoming aspect of a student's day. No longer just a place for students to check in and talk to friends, homeroom has evolved into a period where students can start (or end) their day at a safe, supportive home base. Teachers can take the time to get to know their students, and they can offer guidance and information to help them navigate the day. Homeroom is also the perfect place to celebrate student success, welcome new students, and mark special occasions. Here are a few tips on how to use homeroom to build a culture that's inclusive, supportive, and fun.
Go Beyond Taking Attendance
Homeroom comes in many forms. Twice a week, the students at my small high school meet by grade level for 10 minutes first thing in the morning. Two of the students' regular teachers serve as homeroom advisers and take care of the housekeeping chores like checking attendance, passing out report cards, or reminding students about upcoming events like auditions for the school play.
When teachers are done, students have the floor to wish peers a happy birthday or remind them about activities like a Friday night dance or a canned food drive starting up the following week. Some students use the time to read, and sometimes there are jokes—we went through a spate of awful knock knock jokes one spring—or even a skit every now and then. A coach might even drop by to single out a student for special praise. Sarita, a junior at my school told me that she enjoys the time because she gets to see students who aren't in her regular classes. "Plus, we like being able to bring up our own issues now and then," she said.
Know the Pros and Cons of a Later Homeroom Period
Another middle school/high school in our area saves homeroom period for the end of the school day. Teachers' reasoning for the shift was that attendance was already being taken in each class period and daily announcements took care of the information or reminders that students needed. By moving homeroom to the afternoon, they could utilize that prime time at the beginning of the day for teaching. However, while teachers and students found that much of the camaraderie remained intact at the end of the day, energy was lower than in the morning. It was even tempting for some kids to put their heads down on their desks.
In addition, absenteeism became a problem. If students had appointments outside of school, many figured it was better to miss homeroom than English or math. They also began to see the end-of-the-day period as an opportunity to get a head-start on homework or make up tests or quizzes. Sam, an eighth grader at the school, noted that he liked seeing his friends, but he also liked having a chance to start his homework, especially when he has sports after school. But when his homeroom teacher suggested that they all read a book together, he balked. "It was like another class," he said. In short, if your homeroom period is at the end of the day, or your school is considering moving it, remember that keeping your students engaged (and in attendance) may become a challenge.
Use It as a Time to Build Rapport with Students
In my experience, planning homeroom cannot be left to chance or the discretion of each teacher. If teachers are finishing up their own lesson plans and don't use the time efficiently, students won't consider homeroom to be an important part of their day. In our school, homeroom teachers meet once a month to review the calendar and plan a schedule for each grade level. The guidance office also provides a list of monthly birthdays and other noteworthy student accomplishments. The homeroom program has become a crucial part of our school's concerted efforts to celebrate our students and make our school more welcoming and supportive.
As you look to optimize your homeroom period, keep in mind that these are just a few ideas to consider. For instance, some schools have decided to get rid of homeroom altogether. While the move adds teaching time to the schedule, it sacrifices the safe and supportive home base that homeroom can provide. It also cuts down on personal recognition of each student, which is an important aspect of student success. Homeroom may take 10–15 precious minutes out of an already packed academic day, but with the right creative homeroom ideas, the results can certainly be worth the time. We teachers just need to be committed to making it work.