This last week, my class began a spontaneous experiment in leadership. My current curriculum is 90% direct instruction, which I follow “with fidelity” by using powerpoint slides to lead the discussions. As we got started, I made an offhand comment that they could do this class without me. At that point, several of them excitedly offered to be the teacher.
I agreed, pulled a stick for our first teacher, and so began a class period with more students engaged than ever before!
It was pretty powerful. Each student “taught” one slide, then pulled a stick to choose the next teacher. Since the information was on the slide, they could handle presenting it. I sat at the back of the room, available to answer questions (although there wasn’t much need).
The students did a great job. They kept the students on task, at times calling on raised hands, at times drawing random names. They even counted down from 5 to get the class’ attention and took points when things got a little noisy. The class was engaged and on task nearly the entire time. The students helped the teacher pronounce unfamiliar words, assisted with figuring out what the assignment should be and generally were very understanding about the teachers.
The next day, they eagerly asked if they could do it again. I agreed and they were off. I was even able to joke that I could get them into trouble by talking in the back of the room! Some of the students asked, nervously, if they would have to do it when they didn’t want to. My answer was yes. I explained that part of our requirement is speaking in front of a group and this would help meet that part of the curriculum. While they weren’t thrilled, even the quiet ones got up and did it, without argument.
The students, as a whole, see this a fun. As we all know, fun can go a long way toward engaging our students!
As we go forward, I’m hoping to give them a larger role – not just reading what I put on the slide, but actually preparing something to teach. The challenge is that I am required to teach Reading Street as handed to me. This means the powerpoint slides come from the teacher’s edition. Having them create the slides wouldn’t really give them an authentic teaching opportunity.
For the moment, we’ll continue with allowing the students to present information and see how things go. It’s only been 2 days, so the whole thing could go off the rails on Tuesday. Let’s hope it continues to work!