Student Teachers: Child Led Learning and Teaching

Teachers are used to teaching, but what if we stopped?

Not for a long time, maybe a day or even just a period. Instead of the adult standing up and teaching, what if the kids taught?

Child led teaching and child led learning has been gaining traction over the last few years, and even before that with Montessori and Waldorf education philosophies.

This has been one of my best teaching methods for the last few years. It lets me see what the students know (or learned) about a topic or unit. I get to know their learning styles more based on how they present. Plus, if the kids feels responsible for their own learning, they “own it” more than if an adult is taking control of teaching them. Best of all, you can use it in several different ways.

Review It

test-986769_640Having students teach the class is a perfect way to review for a test. All the kids hear the material over again, in different voices and with a different focus than when the teacher originally presented it.

Long-term reviews are a great built in way to assess student learning. Over the course of a unit, small groups of students become experts in their particular topics. While every student is working with all the content, the groups are focusing in on particular themes. This works well for units that are heavy in biographies, battles, many different broad themes (geometry = shape categories), or several major components. And it can be used across subjects.

While I really like long-term projects that can double as end of unit reviews, I much prefer flash reviews. When kids walk into my room on flash review days, I immediately divide them into small groups using numbers. Each group number is assigned a portion of the unit. The groups must create a short presentation or poster that covers all concepts in their part of the unit. They can use notes, previous assessments or assignments; basically anything related to the unit that we have in our classroom. The groups are given a brief period of time to accomplish this, usually 15-20 minutes. Then they present to the whole class. At the end, I give a short test review out loud just to wrap things up.

Lead It

language-school-834138_640Jigsawing lessons has been used for almost two decades as a research-backed practice. Jigsawing basically involves the same strategy as flash-reviews, but with essentially new materials.

After building some background, divide students into small “home groups.” Then assign different roles to each person in every group, forming new “topic” groups. These second groups will gather to learn their assigned material, and then return to their home groups to share the information collectively.

Another method is to only create the “home groups,” but use these as the topic groups, too. The small groups each take responsibility for a portion of the unit or assignment, working together to learn. Then, they present their knowledge to the whole class with (or without) guidance from the teacher.

The most vital parts of jigsawing for me is to be very clear about the assignments and to do a very good job of building that background knowledge before releasing the students to their small groups.

Drive It

gesture-772977_640Student driven learning is my absolute favorite way to have the students become the teachers. There are infinite ways to accomplish this.

One of my favorites is independent research projects. In my classroom, I made these optional; basically “rewards” for moving their own learning forward independently. As students finish assignments in class, and after checking for accuracy and mastery of standards, they are allowed to choose a topic to work on independently. Since they are choosing the topics, the kids take total ownership of their work. As they finish or reach major milestones, they share their progress with me via Google Drive for comments and feedback. At the very end, they have the option to present to the class for extra credit. It does create more work for me, but I also get insights into what my kids are interested in and how they work best.

hands-565603_640Another awesome strategy is to do 20 Time with your kids. This is an idea that started at Google a while ago. 20 Time is super flexible and can be tailored to your teaching style and classroom. I had my students brainstorm problems; school problems, local problems, national problems, world problems. Then, they researched their problems and tried to “solve” them, or at least look at possible solutions. My kiddos surprised me! They chose challenging topics like abused circus animals, working mothers, and crime. They created their own presentations or wrote a paper and showed their hard work to their parents at the end of the year. Everyone was amazed!

How do you let your students drive your classroom teaching and learning?




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