Establishing a House System in Your Classroom


First, to the hundreds of people who have asked me for this blog post: I'm sorry. I said that I would write a blog post "within the week," and here we are a year later. 😂 I hope that you can forgive me, and I truly hope that this post helps you establish a house system in your classroom community.

The house system idea first appealed to me when I discovered the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. It touched on my love for Harry Potter and teaching all in one, and I KNEW that I wanted to have a house system in my classroom. I talked with my administrators, and we decided to pilot it in what we call the Freshman Academy. We have 4 core teachers: Algebra, Environmental Science, Government, and English. Luckily, I have a rock star team, and they were 100% on board with the idea.

Where to Start:

First, decide your angle. Is this going to be just in your classroom, do you have a team that you'd like to try it with, or are you going all out and trying to establish it school-wide? I firmly believe that team works makes the dream work, but if you're on your own at your school, then you just rock it out by yourself!

As a team, we met over the summer to casually talk about our approach. We decided to go with four houses just like Harry Potter and RCA: Symbiosis, Exuberance (the best house to ever exist), Integrity, and Perseverance. We each picked our house names and symbols, and we decided that not only did these four complement each other, they were what we wanted from our students. From there, we set expectations for each of the houses.

Leading up to the Sorting:

We talked and talked about the house system and "something exciting" coming their way for about a month. Because of unforeseen circumstances, we had to wait a bit before launching. This year, we're launching during the first week! We started by creating the behavior matrix and what we expected of our students. These behaviors would earn them points. We would award 1 point for displaying a house characteristic and 5 or more for exceptional behaviors. As the year went on, we naturally awarded points for all kinds of positive behaviors. Before the sorting, we gave each student a blank version of the below handout, and then in each of our four classes, we would fill out our house characteristics and behavior expectations as well as do something related to our houses. For example, because my house is Exuberance, we did a bunch of chants to hype everyone up. I also bought pom poms and played a lot of music.

Some of the behaviors such as tracking the speakers (always keeping eyes on the speaker) and standing when speaking are directly from RCA. These two behaviors alone TRANSFORMED our students. Will every student want to stand? No. Will every student want to track a speaker? Nope. The goal is that through constant positive reinforcement from both teachers and their peers as well as the motivation to earn house points, they will try. At the same time, it's equally important to award points to students who are quiet during transitions, remain focused on tasks, and ask for help.

The Sorting:

We knew that our sorting ceremony had to be memorable and tangible. We talked about doing an online sorting, drawing names out of hats, and more. BUT then, our wonderful science teacher's husband (shout out to all the teacher spouses out there!) built this magnificent wheel.

What a difference it made! The four teachers and all of our students met outside, and each student spun the wheel and then went to a face painting station afterwards. We also immediately created house chants and handshakes. It was truly incredible to see teenagers doing crazy chants and handshakes in the hallway even after the ceremony.

Lesson learned with the sorting: Because the wheel spinning was random, we ended up with 28 kids in one house and then 12 in another, so we're going to cap each house this year so that it's fair. We ended up having a point conversion for the smaller house. Also, we're buying wristbands for the kids too so that when they spin, they instantly get a little souvenir.

The First Day with Points:

As a team, we decided that during the first two days after the launch, we would not take away any points from the houses. In each of our rooms, we had a station somewhere so that students could add points to their house. If a student stood to speak, we made it quick and easy: "Nice job, Tyler! House point to Integrity." Tyler would add his point, and we'd keep class moving.

I laminated these boards so that we could write on them with dry-erase markers. It worked well for the entire year! After the "honeymoon" period ended, we started to take away points. As a team, we decided that the most prominent issues were tardiness, cell phones, and language. We would take off 5 points for each of these. We did not make students erase points from the board. We, the teachers, had a separate tracking sheet on our clipboards for this; however, we did make a note that "Exuberance is losing 5 points for a cell phone." The problems started to fix themselves very quickly because the students were working as a team to keep each other on track. We did not tolerate any rude behavior towards the students who had lost the points. Losing the points was enough.

Keeping it Going:

In each house, we picked two house leaders for the first "round" (roughly one month), and thereafter, students would vote on new leaders. The leaders were invited to special lunches with the teachers, and we asked them to monitor and motivate their house members.

In our rooms, we had face paint stations for students to use every day. They did this for a few weeks after. When we noticed that it was dying down, we decided it was time for a house pride day.

Throughout the year, we held various pride days, competitions, house meetings, and more to keep the momentum going. We had monthly prizes for the house with the most points, and they were almost all food-related. I know some people don't like to give food as rewards, but teenagers are hungry, and they simply like food.

Lessons Learned and The Truth:

I won't lie to you: sometimes, we did burn out a bit. We would try to rev it up again with some kind of event, but sometimes, we fell off the wagon. To fix this for the upcoming school year, we are going to create a calendar in advance for specific events and hold each other accountable. We're going to make t-shirts and institute a star system for students to "earn their stars" as a way to make it more competitive.

Despite our efforts, not every student bought into it. Maybe it was because they were teenagers, or maybe they did not find it valuable enough; however, we had plenty of students buy into it, and it was an incredible experience. If you find this in your houses, just keep trying to motivate them.

If you have ANY questions, please leave them in the comments below so that when I answer them, everyone can see them.

If you'd like to download the FREE resources mentioned in this blog post, click here. Thank you for reading and best of luck to you all with your house systems!

Check me out on Instagram to follow along throughout the 2017-2018 school year. :)


  1. This is awesome! Thank you for writing this. I started the house system last December after visiting RCA and I came across the same issues like you. Thank you for some ideas to implement this year. One thing I did was buy lanyards in the house colors and the students wore those every day with a badge holder that held a card I made with the 4 houses and what they meant in case anyone asked them. I did the house system just with my class. We had a lot of fun and I can't wait to start it this year from the beginning! Thank you again!

    1. I love the lanyard idea! Do you have a website to recommend for them? Thank you :)

    2. LOVE this idea! I just came across the RCA House system, and I'm going to implement it with my 3rd graders this year. I was going to buy jelly bracelets, but I love the idea of lanyards.

  2. Thank you so much for this step by step post. I've wanted to do the house system for a couple years, but didn't know where to start. Now I'm ready to go! Maybe my enthusiasm will extend school wide NEXT year!!

  3. Your blogpost was clear and detailed. It helped me better understand how to implement the house system. Thank you!

  4. This is the best thing I've read all summer! Thank you so so much for helping the rest of us figure this out! You are the BEST!

  5. Do your students stay in the same house for the entire year??

    1. Yes, they do. We thought about switching them up to reignite the flame, but we decided to keep them the same all year for consistency.

  6. Thank you so much for this information. I do have a question about implementation. I have proposed the house points system to our staff. Our school is prek through 8th grade and is very small and I think our kids would make it successful. We are suggesting teachers use class dojo to keep track of points. Some teachers don't have access to technology during instruction. Specifically, the gym teacher who teaches everyone in the school is worried he won't be able to keep track of points during gym class. Right now he doesn't have to do anything with behavior because if they are causing a problem they just sit out for a time out. I want to get him on board but I need a strategic way to help him so he will want to participate. What are the methods you use for students and teachers to keep track of points?

  7. What do you do to prevent the competitiveness and divide amoung the different houses? We want to implement this but we don’t want it to bring about negativity among the different houses. Rather, we want it to unify the school. Ideas???

  8. Amazing content! Thank you for sharing your resources

  9. I want to use this in my elementary classroom but not sure how to separate this from our main behavior management system like a clip chart or class dojo?

  10. Maybe they shouldn’t be separate. We use an above/below the line system at our school. I was thinking about including it to limit the amount of things I have to keep up with. If they earn a point they can have an above the line and if they lose points they would get a below the line. I am going to share with my team to get thoughts.

  11. Hi, everyone. I would like to ask what is the most appropriate age for this system? For example, I would like to implement this system among my 15 year old students and younger. Will it work ?
    Thanks in advance

  12. Can house system apply in the classroom as well?

  13. Hi! How does this work with multiple classes? Are the points shared among all classes or does each have their own point system?

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