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Showcasing Mellanay Auman and "Classroom Secretaries"

"I read about classroom secretaries in one of my professional development books and modified the idea to meet my own needs," recalled eighth grade teacher Mellanay Auman. "And it worked!" Now, student "secretaries" track the activities and assignments in each of Auman's five language arts classes at Townsend Middle School in Tucson, Arizona.

"Each day, for a five-day period, the designated class secretary puts his or her name and the date at the top of a new page in the class notebook," Auman explained. "Then, the secretary lists the handouts and homework for that day. During class, the secretary copies into the notebook exactly what I write on the overhead, and lists the page numbers in students' notebooks that the notes should go on. That ensures that students know where to insert information they miss when they are absent. The secretary also briefly describes the day's lesson and lists books and materials necessary to complete the lesson."

Then, when a student returns to school after an absence, all he or she has to do is look in the class notebook to see if a test was missed and to find out what handouts to look for in the absent box," said Auman. "The secretary also explains the notes to the returning student. If a lesson still is unclear after the meeting with the secretary, the returning student can see me to set up a time to be taught the lesson."

"One young lady missed more than two weeks of school this year," recalled Auman. "Three different secretaries were in charge of the notes during her absence. What thrilled me was that when she returned to school, each class secretary was willing to meet with her at lunch time to help her catch up on her notes. They took their position seriously, and the young lady caught up in record time."

Auman keeps the class notebooks in a divided metal organizer and color-codes classes so students easily can identify their class book. She looks to the notebooks to determine if students grasp the main features of her lessons, and to pinpoint material she needs to revisit. The notebooks also contain additional important notes, including interruptions -- such as fire drills -- that occur.

Other responsibilities also fall to the class secretary. The secretary passes out papers that have been graded, distributes portfolios and gathers them at the end of class, and records where the class pauses in its novel reading.

When a new student is admitted, the class secretary prepares a packet containing a storage portfolio, language arts notebook, homework file, and letters for parents. The secretary also sits beside the new student throughout the first week to offer assistance.

As a reward for their service, class secretaries are given three "free" answers to any test or quiz given during the week of service. All students receive bonus points for taking on the volunteer position. Auman never has had a student refuse to be secretary. In fact, some students ask to fill the role again and again.

Class secretaries can be successful in both middle school and high school, says Auman. To enhance its chances for success in her classroom, Auman conducts an overhead presentation at the beginning of each term, clearly mapping out what she wants students to record in their notebooks. She also monitors the secretaries during class to be sure they can see the material well, and she provides ample time for them to take notes. Auman reports that she has even had other students tell her when a secretary has overlooked information that should appear in the notes!

"I believe the class secretary strategy benefits both the students and me," Auman observed. "Filling the position builds confidence and leadership skills in my students, and because they know others will be reading their notes, penmanship becomes important. The class also runs more smoothly when I am not bombarded with, 'What did I miss?' at the beginning of each period. I am able to take roll and begin the day's lesson without interruptions."

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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