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June 5, 2013

The 3 Minute Classroom Clean-Up

QUICK UPDATE: Before we get to the post, I'd like to ask you to do a quick favor for me. I recently decided to take the plunge and put this blog on Facebook and Twitter...which is completely nerve racking for a social media novice like myself (my Facebook-addicted husband was so proud though, you guys!). If you could take just a moment and like my page or follow my twitter account, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks!


Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Move over Super Woman! Your Teacher's Aide is here to save the day!

How, you ask?

(melodramatic pause)

Why, by giving you the secret to a perfectly clean classroom, of course!

(waits for applause. keeps waiting. crickets. gives up and moves on.)

Here's what worked for me:

Not being a naturally clean person (just a naturally wish-I-was-clean person), I had to work at finding ways to keep up with the mess that happens when 25 short people and 2 or 3 big people inhabit a room every day for 180 days. There were pencil shavings, dust, and the occasional sock (really? I mean, why is there just one? Don't you have that feeling that something just isn't right when you're getting on the bus with only one sock on?)...

But I digress....

To deal with my one-sock dilemma, I came up with a strategy that I named 'Rockin' Robin.'

I'd tell my kids that it was time for a Rockin' Robin and they'd immediatly get quiet. I'd pass out one wipe to each student, walk over to my desk, turn on the Rockin' Robin song, and watch the magic happen.

The kids would get up and start cleaning everything and anything they could get their hands wipes on. They'd dance and sing the words to the song until they started to hear the last few lines being repeated. As soon as they realized that the song was ending, they raced to throw their wipe away and get back in their seat. There were just three rules to this 3 minute Rockin' Robin Clean:

1. No using the wipes on computer/tv screens or my desk.

2. No talking, unless you're singing the song (it was kind of strange, but this rule just seemed to add to the allure of the 'game' for the kids!)

3. Each student MUST be back in their seat by the time the song ends if they wanted to continue to do Rockin' Robins in our room. (Again, they LOVED this challenge, though I can't explain why!)

So that's it. We did this song at some random moment in each day and my room stayed fairly clean (though I still found those mysterious socks on occasion. Hmmm, I'm thinking Sock Elf, how 'bout you?)

Here's the kid dance version of Rockin' Robin... and the Michael Jackson one here.

So what works for you? What is your secret to keeping your room clean? 

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Here's some more posts on YTA you might love:


  1. What a fun and easy idea! I have a Pick Up 10 moment each day in my room. I yell 'PICK UP TEN' and each student races to pick up ten pieces of trash or put away ten things.

  2. Great idea, I love it! In my room, we play "Magic Trash" after they get packed up to go home, where I "spy" 1 or 2 or 3 pieces of "magic trash." The kids go crazy trying to pick up trash as quickly as possible, because whoever picks up the "magic trash" gets a Smellie or a prize or a "2nd grade buck," etc. Works like a charm, but some classes are lazier than others (mine this year was SUPER lazy in the whole "that's not mine!" sense), so it's great to have another great idea to throw in!

    Teach On.

    1. I do "Quietest Cleaner" and announce a prize. Sometimes prizebox, sometimes a cool sticker, some times a "park point" (school ESD incentive), etc. Seems to keep them motivated.

  3. Cute idea! I had my kids play "silent sweeper", although I didn't do it every day. I would call out "silent sweeper!" and they would rush around the room looking for trash, lost pencils, random things on the floor, etc. But they couldn't talk. When I felt it was pretty much clean, I ask them to "show me!" Everyone who participated (sometimes it was during dismissal so students were leaving) and didn't talk, showed me what they found and I gave them either one skittle or a sticker. They were asking ALL the time to play.

  4. I love the idea, especially how you have taught the students to recognize that the ending of the song is coming so they hustle to finish on time. This way, you always know exactly how long your clean-up will take (the length of the song). I wonder if you have to have an up-front discussion with them, though, about safe movement in those hectic final moments of the song.

    If you're ever looking for other ideas for using music in the classroom, by the way, my colleague Rich Allen and I published our book The Rock 'N' Roll Classroom last year (Corwin Press), which covers pretty much the full gamut of classroom uses of music. You can find it on Amazon or at the Corwin Press site if you're interested.

    Willy Wood (aka W. W. Wood)

  5. What a fun and helpful idea! I will definitely be trying this! Thank you!

  6. Brilliant!!!! I am using this on August 14th when the new year begins!!!

  7. my only comment is that i wish teachers would please stop using candy as rewards. I know it's just a piece or 2 here or there, but my daughter has already had a root canal in elementary school and she struggles with good food choices. I'm all for stickers or pencils or erasers or classroom bucks if desired, but I beg you to stay away from candy.

    1. Those are some good points and I think we can all agree on the merits of rewarding students with non-candy choices. Teachers, check out YTA's post on free and easy reward ideas to get some creative ideas:

  8. I have taught 5th grade for two years now, and I've found it much more difficult to motivate them to keep the room clean than when I taught third and fourth grade. The biggest problem is that I am finally a more organized and clean person (there's still plenty of room for growth), so this is killing me! I like the rules that go along with the song. I used to use "Happy Song" by Otis Redding.

    1. I agree Elizabeth- I taught 5th grade, then third grade and found that the younger kids were easier to motivate. Surprisingly enough, I actually started doing the Rockin' Robin routine first with my 5th graders and they LOVED it. I also used Simon Says a lot and was always surprised how the entire room of pre-teens would freeze and follow my directions just because they started with the words 'Simon Says...'

  9. I also play Magic Trash. I learned about it from the Teacher Tipster on You Tube. They beg to play after every craft or art activity. It works great!

  10. I'm going to try this this week. I will come back to let you know how it worked in my preschool classroom.

  11. Now that's a great tactic! Keeping a schedule and planning a routine will really make any job as easy as one two three. Haha! Seeking professional help can also be an added expert touch to the cleaning. If you're interested check out Desert Oasis Cleaners. In any case, good day!

    Cory Waltemath

  12. In my room each child has a job to do - it takes us only one minute to get it done after the first term of practice. If they do their job they get a sticker for their chart. The power of a bit of sticky paper boggles the mind sometimes! At 10 mins before the bell I just say, "Ok kids, do your job!" They end by sitting at the back of the room ready for a story or game at the end of the day.

  13. I play Magic Scrap. I find one scrap on thr floor and yell "magic scrap". The kids race around the room picking up anything they can find on the floor. The student that picks up the scrap I chose gets a prize. In my classroom I have money, so the student gets a dollar.

  14. I play Magic Scrap. I find one scrap on thr floor and yell "magic scrap". The kids race around the room picking up anything they can find on the floor. The student that picks up the scrap I chose gets a prize. In my classroom I have money, so the student gets a dollar.

  15. I bought a broom, a hand broom, and two dust pans. My kindergartners LOVE using them, and since they are little they have to work together to clean which builds cooperation (and they learn to take turns).
    We have indoor free play time, so my classroom is often covered in legos, dolls, ect as the kids set up their little worlds under tables and on the carpet, so they are pretty practiced at cleaning up in five minutes.
    Sometimes we do a "beat the teacher" race where I count to a number I think they can just about beat while they clean. Beating me may mean a sticker, a cheer, or getting a few extra minutes of play time at the end of the day.


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