We’ve talked before about how to give your class back to your students. Today, I want to look at a similar idea of how we can create a shared learning environment where the teacher and students are partners in learning.
What the Research Says
We know that students are more successful when they aren’t just asked to absorb information from the teacher, but are a part of the learning process. I recently read an article written about 10 years ago that explained this idea really well. Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game write in The Teacher’s Enthusiasm that
“A good teacher is not one who provides all the energy that a class needs; good teachers are those who allow the production of an energy that is not the teachers and not the students, but shared between them.” See article here.
In my own experience, I’ve found this to be true. When are my students most engaged? When do I see their eyes light up with excitement? It’s not when I’m just giving them the information, but during those times when they are actively sharing new information and creating new meaning by doing things themselves.
To promote this, here are 5 easy practices that you could implement to make learning a shared experience.
1. Read Alouds with Discussions
Students of every age love read alouds. How can we make students active participants in them? Pause in your reading to make time for think-pair-share discussions. First, give students a moment to think, have them share with a partner, and then have a few of the pairs share with everyone. This way, even though you don’t have time for everyone to share with the entire class, everyone still gets an opportunity to think through their ideas and to share with a partner (with the added pressure of not knowing if they’ll be called on or not after). I have two favorite ways of getting my students to really think.
- Close your eyes and visualize! After reading a particularly funny or thought provoking scene, I have my students visualize what it might have looked like or they would do if they were the character, before sharing with a partner and then the class (this gets lots of laughs).
- Cover your mouth with your hand and whisper the answer. For answers that require more vocabulary, I often have my students whisper the answer in their hand before sharing. This way, they get practice explaining their thinking twice. For ELL students, it gives them extra time to think of the vocabulary they’d like to use.
2. Let the Students Help Write Math Story Problems
When writing problems on the white board or even when typing up math problems, I love to ask my students for help. They generally make the story problems about themselves or their friends and relish in the idea of doing amazing or silly things. How many cookies did Talya bake in all if she made 7 per day for a week? suddenly makes them giggle and shake their heads as they solve and ask Talya for some cookies at the same time.
3. Let Students be the Teacher
There are so many fun ways to make your students the teacher. This is doubly effective, because they don’t realize how much work they’re doing to set up questions or learning experiences for their peers.
One way I’ve recently done this is on our school’s Moodle page. I set up a forum and had students post a question and then answer someone else’s. Once they saw that someone had answered their original question, they got to go back and see if it was right.
4. Jigsaw Activity
Jigsaw activities are very simple in design. Divide up whatever reading you want your students to learn into parts and give each of those parts to a different group. Then, like a jigsaw puzzle comes together, each group shares what they read to everyone else who was in a different group. The key here for young students is to provide support for them to make quality presentations.
Recently, my students did a jigsaw activity where each group read about a different step archaeologists take to do research. They then made posters and shared their findings and new vocabulary with the class.
5. Impromptu sharing
Not all sharing needs to be planned out. When I see a student do something great, I try like to give them an opportunity to share it – giving them confidence and their peers some great tips/knowledge. Sometimes this sharing is by simply writing a new word they learned on the word wall, or sometimes I have everyone stop what they’re doing and freeze so the student can share right then and there.
How do you create opportunities for students to be leaders their learning? Please comment and share below.