Weekly Reflection: Students as teachers

Throughout this year I have been using small group workshops to teach content.  Today, a held a large addition and subtraction of decimals strategy workshop.  I had my teacher opted in students and a number of students that wanted to work on decimals in maths.  A student confidently used the strategy and met her own success criteria thus finishing her work.

She returned to the group, “I’m finished!”.

The group had moved off and a few students decided that they needed further scaffold to progress to the next step.  My extra speedy learner piped up,

“Can I teach those girls how to do it?” she asked.

“Yeah, can she teach us?” they chorused.

WOW, – of course you can.  The girls moved off and proceeded to run their own workshop.

I checked in with the learners later and performed a short formative assessment task.  One of the students confidently exclaimed that yes I can solve those problems and yes they are so easy.  She then demonstrated using the SC to solve the problem.

Snapshots such as these reinforce the learning and teaching capacity of our learners as educators.  This was one of the best workshops so far.

Weekly reflection: whole class, small group, 1:1, buddy

I have noticed, right throughout my teaching career, as lean as it is but relevant nonetheless, that many students are not particularly engaged during whole class instruction.  We complete a 7-10 minute, yes, I have a student timer that times me each time, hotspot at the start of our Daily 5.  I work hard to maintain engage and enthusiasm during these short 10 minute sessions.  I ask students questions, I give lots of positive feedback for student comments, I complete a quick model session and set them free.  What I noticed, particularly last term, lack of engagement and boredom.  Hence the strict chunking and timing regime we have.  But, in comparison, what a startling difference during small groups.

One child that will not speak in front of the class is transformed into a wonderful source of knowledge and he absolutely extrudes confidence during reading groups.  I can barely keep him quiet!  He wanted to answer every question and he demonstrated to me and his peers his in-depth understanding of the text, his ability to re-read to find information, and to use his prior knowledge….the list can go on.  Another student was ignited during a small group reading activity by the ingredient of competition from another peer.  She went from a docile, quiet and uninterested participant to an enthusiastic and ambitious learner.

 Student A started the session with answers such as, ‘I don’t know’ and lots of shoulder shrugging.  Enter stage left, student B that was enthusiastic and motivated and wanted to share her knowledge and attempted to answer questions.  At this point, I distinctly recall student A watching her peer share and engage with the text.  She looked back at me, and noticed by enthusiasm and encouragement as I praised her for showing me her comprehension skills.  At this point, she started to engage with the text and the group and was actively competing to share her ideas.

In a whole class session, both of these students would not have transformed their learning.  I would not have observed their skill and knowledge in a whole class session.

During term 1, I increased the amount of small group teaching.  I completed a student survey today and one of the questions in the survey was, ‘How do you like to work during writing?  shade all the choices that sound like you

Whole class         small group       buddy     on my own      1:1 with the teacher


What did they choose?

Over 80% of the class selected small group.  One student selected whole class teaching.  This question was asked for reading and writing.  The results were similar.  About 40 % of students selected buddy and a small number selected on my own.  Many students selected more than 1 choice.

What does it mean?

That I am right increasing the amount of small group time in all areas.  The Daily 5 and CAFE approach is great for this as well.  There is a place for whole class but the preferred way of most students in my class is small group and opportunities to work with buddies and individually.

What about me?

I love to work with small groups and observe the knowledge and skills that learners have.  I am enthused to see learners transform into confident and ambition beings that amaze me and their peers.  I relish in the learning conversations I have with my learners and the interactions learners have with each other.