Posted in Teaching Techniques

Student Run Lessons

If you’ve gotten this far, it means that you’re reading my blog post. If the title of the post has freaked you out a little, please don’t run away from this post. Take a couple of minutes and actually read it. It’s probably not as scary as you might be imagining it to be.

I firmly believe that sometimes students learn better when their peers teach them. Sometimes they just need that jolt of something new, a fresh perspective, a more relatable teacher. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with this, and that we should be open to the idea of student taught lessons.

To be clear, I do not imagine this as a free for all, nor do I view it as a decision to simply not teach that particular day. In my head there are multiple and important steps to this process.

  1. I think it’s best to introduce this idea to students when they are starting a new book or unit. The introduction is important because you might have a group of students who really don’t want to do this. Please don’t force students to participate in student run lessons if they are truly resistant to the idea.
  2. Provide students with a guideline and/or template of what you want them to do. They’ve never taught a course before (presumably), and they need guidelines. And just as importantly, you need to maintain a level of control.
  3. Proof and review their lessons before they teach! This step is very important. Students might not have done the assignment correctly. They might need some guidance. You might want to collaborate with them. Don’t assume that they’re on track – check!
  4. On the days students are teaching, you should still be the one to start class. Let students know what the day holds for them. Introduce the student(s) who are teaching. Maintain a basic level of control so that things don’t get out of hand.

Try it out. See how a student run lesson might work for you. It could be pretty fabulous.


Posted in Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

Homework Calendars

I like calendars a lot. I’ve always liked calendars. Everyone who knows me knows that I love school supplies; back to school shopping is one of my favorite times of year. I have my planners(s) and my wipeboard calendar, and not only do I use them, but I love them. I live by them. If it’s not in my planner, chances are I won’t be there. I’ll forget. I’ll schedule something else. I’m also really big on color coding. Different colors for birthdays, due dates, exam dates, etc. Calendars and organization are my jam.

Now that I’ve made myself out to be the true and giant dork that I am, I’m going to refocus this onto school and the purpose calendars serve there.

In the past, I’ve had teachers provide homework calendars. I’m not talking about the schedule that comes in a college syllabus, even though those are fabulous. I’m talking about an actual calendar (a monthly print out typically) with every step of a project planned out.

This might seem like a lot. It might seem like overkill. But I think that there are two scenarios where a homework calendar such as this would be great.

The first scenario is middle school where students are thrust into learning organization and time management. A homework calendar might really help them see how to break down a project and manage their time. Obviously we want students to be able to figure this out for themselves, and we want them to figure out what works for them. But especially that first year of middle school they might not know what that is. They need guidelines and guidance as they figure this next stage of life out. Over time I would want to transition students from a homework calendar all filled out to a homework calendar that they fill out, but they need to see that demonstrated for them first.

The second scenario could take place in any grade. The homework assignment in question might be a research paper, a debate, a TEDTalk. It would be a project that students haven’t necessarily done before, and it would be a project big enough to potentially be intimidating and overwhelming. I want to demonstrate to students what the stages of this project are and how to break these stages down into manageable pieces. I want to teach them the skills that they will need to succeed either as they further their education or as they enter the workforce where there are projects that need to be managed and deadlines that need to be met.

As a teacher I want my students to succeed. If I can help them do that by teaching them life skills and time management tips and tricks, I want to do that for them. I really think that sometimes homework calendars are the way to go.