In pondering having a student-centered classroom I wondered, how do I make the first day of class student-centered? What message do I tell students when the very first thing I do is have them face me and I tell them all about myself and the class rules? Does the message come across that this class is about them? I was afraid it was giving the message that the teacher is most important rather than the students.
This led to the idea of why do we need to introduce ourselves to the entire class. It is efficient, but it is not personal. We do not usually stand in the middle of the mall yelling things about ourselves and thinking we are connecting with people. When you connect with someone, you look them in the eye. You ask them a question about themselves. If I want to make connections with my students, this was my goal.
The first moment a student walks in the door, greet them personally. Direct them to some place that activity directions are located. On the board, on papers around the room, on a website. Design an activity that is collaborative and gets students interacting with each other. Go around the room and ask each student a question. Get to know the kids one on one.
Out of this initial idea to make the first moments about the student rather than about myself, came the idea, why not make all interactions personal? What do you really really have to say to everyone? Again, it is efficient to say it to the whole class, but is it personal?
Never address the whole class.
To be clear, I am not saying you should do this. This is the challenge @bartonkeeler and myself are trying. We wanted to know what happens when you stop talking to everyone at once.
I Talk A Lot
The #nottalkWC challenge does not mean you turn your class into independent study and you sit at your desk. I am talking the whole time. I am always moving around, engaging students in small group and individual discussions. I am probably talking more than ever. Except, I’m actually talking with students rather than at them. Students who would never normally ask a question or challenge an idea are much more willing in a small group. I get to hear from everyone.
As hard as it is, I am resolved to not make announcements to the class. Ever. I can put it on the board. I can put on the website, or I can go to each group individually and tell the same announcement 5 times. I notice when I do the same announcement to each group that the announcement is different because I am responding to the student responses in the group.
Normally I design my lessons to include me talking. Now I design my lessons for students interacting and doing activities. I am trying to foster a student-centered environment. The person doing the work is the person doing the learning. Thus, I want my students actively engaged in a task the whole time. Things I consider when designing a lesson: collaboration, interactions, peer evaluations, small group discussions, research, crowd sourcing, choice, and more.
Differentiation in this environment is easier. By making personal interactions throughout the lesson I am able to see when students need more challenge or scaffolding. Sometimes a student needs a different activity or just needs to talk with me to understand the reason behind the activity.
We are using the hashtag #notalkWC to share experiences. Join us on Twitter.