Who is Doing the Work?

  Anthony was excited to teach a second grade class how to use the library catalog. He started the lesson with this question: “Who can explain what a library catalog is and why it is important?” When no one raised their hand, they all listened intently as Anthony explained how the library catalog lists all of the book titles that are available in the school library. He demonstrated how to limit the results by using the reading level search function. When the lesson was finished, Anthony took his seat next to his classmate. He is a student, and he is only seven years old.

   Barbara Gilbert, Director of Curriculum for the Colchester Public School District, explained why having more responsibility with learning is important.  “When the students were doing the work, we saw much more learning happen as compared to classrooms where the teachers were lecturing or managing a discussion.”

  Second grade students in Mrs. DiCioccio’s class visited the school library to find interesting facts to read for the morning announcements. DiCioccio explained, “This is a new procedure for this class. I used to give children the facts to report, and they did not seem very excited about it. I decided to let them research their own facts on topics that they found interesting, and that has made a difference.” Now the morning announcements are delivered with clarity and confidence.

  There was a time when Melissa Elliott gave her class topics to research with set questions to answer. She found the children were not invested in those projects. Elliott now asks what everyone wonders about a certain topic. After the answers are found and conclusions are made, Elliott asks how the research should be shared. Some choose technology, while others decide to build, paint, or perform their research. By facilitating research projects this way, thoughtful questions are asked and explored.

  Giving young people more responsibility in their learning has had a ripple effect throughout Colchester Elementary School. Steve Lombardo, the school custodian, shared an example that took place in the cafeteria. “I was folding the tables and putting the chairs away in the cafeteria after lunch when a group of kids jumped in and started helping me put everything away.”

Barbara Johnson, a library media specialist, facilitates a district-wide Digital Learning Day where boys and girls teach other children, parents, and teachers how to use apps and websites to enhance education. “Empowering children to have a voice in the learning process not only creates ownership, but a sense of purpose, engagement and innovation,” said Johnson. “Putting ‘all hands on deck’ means there are more hands to carry the load. Their hands might be tiny, but they are mighty!”

 For more information about student led instruction, read: “Improving the Instructional Core” by Richard F. Elmore, “Leading the Instructional Core” by Kevin Costante, and “The Benefits of Students Teaching Students Through Online Video” by Katrina Schwartz.

Post to Twitter: Student lead instruction changes the way children learn @CpsSupt


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