Thursday, March 9, 2017

Student-Centered Classroom Reflection

The looks on their faces were priceless.  The collective sigh, hilarious.

"Class!  I've taught this content 7 times, and every time I've learned from it and made adjustments to my teaching.  Never before have I been more capable, never before more confident in my ability to teach you than today!  And that is why today I am not going to teach you!  Today is YOUR day!  Today YOU will teach YOURSELVES!"

The moans and groans from my students put a smile on my face.  They know me and they trust me.  From their tone I sense their sarcasm.  From mine they sense my own.

I click open the first slide of my Google Slide document and don't say a word.  I look at my students.  My students look at me.  And then they look at the slide; and then at each other; and then back at me.
And that's when all my excitement is dreadfully replaced by fear.  Oh no! I think.  They don't get it.  This isn't going to work.

Cheerfully, I encourage my students.  I fake it.  I pretend not to be discouraged.  "What on earth is this?!  Why would Mr Bailey put this slide up on the screen?!"

I hear crickets.  Total student silence.  And then one or two quiet voices.  They're whispering to each other.  And then a few more.  And finally some clicking of their keyboards.  A Google Search!  This was going to work!  My students were buying into the activity.  And I became more energized once again.

I never intended this activity to be a paid day off -- me sitting at my desk checking sports scores or reading headlines.  I never intended to disengage and tell my students to just go have it.  Throughout the whole activity, like in any other day, I circled my classroom listening to student discussion, watching student inquiry, and awaiting student questions.

"What's a demand schedule?" one group of students asked me.
"Have you asked Siri?" I responded.
The students laughed.

My observations:  I was right.  My students were more engaged.  And I think they did learn things they're more likely to remember.  I'm certain it took longer than if I had stood in front of the class providing direct instruction.  But who's to say how many of my students would have really followed along and understood my lecture?

Of course there were students who struggled more than others, just as I would expect during lecture.  But during this activity, I was there with them.  And when the struggle became too much or too long, I was there to offer them a hint to keep them going -- perhaps an idea or two from direct instruction to set them back on course before sending them back on their way.

From my students: "Yes, that was fun!" was an overwhelming response.  "But not everyday!  OK, Mr Bailey?"

This certainly isn't something to be done daily.  But of course, what lesson plan is?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Student-Centered Classroom

To an extent, I've used the idea of a student centered classroom throughout the past years of my teaching career.

My students are all seated in groups facing each other.  I've never had them in rows, except during testing, and even then (at times) I've had students collaborate on their quizzes.
Mr Bailey's Class

Participation is a very big part of my grading.  From bell to bell, I carry a tablet and annotate a photo of my seating chart with dots to record student participation during small group and whole class discussions.

For each unit of study, I try to implement at least one project-based learning opportunity.

And I try to take time during every class period to sit at an empty desk and talk with my students.  Usually my conversations begin around the subject of school or our activity on hand, but I always try to steer them for some time toward something beyond our class in a sincere attempt to learn more about my students and develop a relationship based on respect and trust.

But today will be different!  Today I plan to take this idea of a student-centered classroom to the next level!

This will be my 8th time teaching this content.  Every time I've taught this content I've made adjustments -- some major, some minor.  But never have I attempted to make such a radical adjustment as I intend to make today.

Because today, I plan on not teaching!  Yes, your read that right.  After 7 times teaching this stuff, I honestly feel more capable and better prepared than ever to teach this content.  And that is the precisely why today I won't be teaching it!

In preparation for today's student-centered class, I've created a new Google Slide loaded with guided questions, images and hints.  Armed with their prior knowledge, collaboration with their classmates and the power of Google Search, I expect my students will guide their own learning and discovery in order to complete today's lesson with increased student-engagement, improved understanding, and (perhaps most importantly) the rewarding sensation of accomplishment and achievement.