Welcome back for the 2nd chapter of Learn Like a Pirate! I'm linking up with The Primary Gal to discuss this amazing book about creating a student-led classroom. Scary? A little. But you can do it!
Chapter 2 discusses the common concerns about creating student-led classrooms, such as giving up control, too much work, too much at stake, what will the administrators think, etc.
As far as control goes, the teacher is not giving up control because his/her word is final. The teacher is just choosing not to dictate every single little thing that goes on. Will there be bad choices? Of course. But if a student is going to make a decision, try, and fail, isn't the safe environment of a classroom a much better place to take that risk than out there in the real world?
By teaching students how to lead and manage their own choices, we are teaching them how to think for themselves. The world has enough followers. We need to develop doers and thinkers, and inside the classroom is the safest place to practice these skills.
Yes, there will be noise. With all that collaborating and students guiding each other, there will be noise. But it will be productive, on-task, excited noise. Your students will be engaged in the curriculum and sharing that with their peers. Isn't that what we want anyway?
Ok, we've talked about the scary. Let's talk about the payoff.
We all know that active learning is more effective than passive learning. Students who are doing are more likely to retain what they've learned than students who are quietly listening to someone talk. In a student-led classroom, they are hands-on in everything--academics, collaboration, responsibility, leading, and a host of other social skills. I don't know about you, but actively practicing these skills sounds great to me.
When your students are leading, you have more time to work with students in small groups or one-on-one. This allows to you to focus on skills individual students need and offer them meaningful feedback you may not have been able to give if you were up running everything. (Read: student-led classroom=more time to work with more kids. Who doesn't need more time?)
The new teacher evaluation system focuses heavily on student empowerment. Administrators are looking for ways in which the students care for each other, take initiative, show pride in their work, take responsibility, and are actively monitoring their learning. The criteria expects teachers to "create an environment where students lead themselves and their peers without reliance on the teacher." So a student-led classroom is good for them and for you!
I see this being much easier to establish in older grade levels. For my kinders, I can see this working for parts of our day like Daily 5, math centers, and calendar. We did a lot of project-based learning in science and social studies and, during those times, the littles did really well at monitoring themselves and staying on task. They were great at sharing their findings with the class and I can see how this could work for parts of the day. I am concerned about handing the whole day over to kindergarteners, but graduating releasing it over to them could yield phenomenal results.
What do you think? Does any part of this scare you or are you ready to get started?
Check back next week to read all about Chapter 3.