Sunday, April 20, 2014

Creating a Student-Centered Classroom

The student-centered classroom was the focus of a recent middle school Twitter chat. There are many interpretations of what a student-centered classroom should look like, but it generally means that the students do more work than the teacher.  The thought of moving towards a student-centered classroom is scary to many teachers.  It means handing over the role of chief instructor and some classroom control to, well in my case, twelve and thirteen year old students.  For those of you considering moving towards a student-centered classroom, I recommend starting off with some of the following activities.

Question Stations
Before or after reading a story or introducing a concept, create a series of open-ended questions.  Write each question on a piece of chart paper and post the papers around your room.  Pair off or group students and assign each student a question and a different color marker.  After giving each pair/group ample time to discuss and answer the question, tell the class to rotate to the next question.  After all pairs/groups rotate, repeat the rotation by having the students review the answers to the questions and notate what they think the best answer is with a symbol.  This should lead a to fruitful class discussion lead by either you or a student (students can take turns leading the discussion around a particular question).

Cross the Line
Place a piece of tape (or other point of demarcation) down the center of your classroom.  Ask questions related to your content (example: Do you think that the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood was strategic or evil?) and ask students to choose a side as well as be prepared to defend their answer. Allow students to change sides if a classmate provides a piece of information that makes them reconsider their original answer.  If you want the students to take total control of this activity, allow them to write their own questions and volunteer to serve as facilitator. Like Question Stations, Cross the Line has the added benefit of getting the students out of their seats and can be used as either a pre or post teaching activity.

Student Facilitated Warm-Ups
My students complete a daily grammar and vocabulary warm-up.  While the expectation is that the students complete this activity quietly upon entering the room, my third period class (with 33 students) is a particularly chatty group and showed early signs of having difficulty following this expectation to my standards.  Rather than tear my hair out, I decided to allow the students to take ownership of this portion of the class.  A rotating pair of student facilitators is in charge of completing the warm-up, checking it with me, and then reviewing it with their classmates who must also quietly complete it and be ready to be called on by the student facilitators.  Since all students take turns facilitating, they know what it's like to be in front of the room with the fear that no one will be ready to participate, so they take the warm-up seriously.  The added bonus is that the class is quiet by the time I am ready to begin explicit instruction.

Do You Have Anything to Add?
OK, so this one was created in my classroom a few years ago during a formal observation.  I had assigned my students to complete a project on their iPad using a specific app and the plan was for the students to comply and complete the assignment while exhibiting outstanding student behavior and knowledge of the topic that was previously taught.  Since he had the audience of the vice-principal, one student decided to raise his hand and ask if he could use a different app.  When I responded that I was unfamiliar with the app, he offered to hook his iPad up to the LCD projector and show me and the rest of the class how to use it.  It was a hit and since then, I've allowed students to add to the list of approved apps, programs, and websites as long as they are willing to show me and their classmates how to use them.

No comments:

Post a Comment