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Student Centered Means Adaptability

The students we teach are not homogenous. The problem with a traditional textbook is it is a one size fits all guide. The value of a teacher goes way beyond getting students through the book. It is being adaptable to the students we have. Building relationships. Incorporating student interests into the lesson (something the textbook can not do since the book does not know our students.)

On Thursday June 24th I will be doing a FREE webinar (sponsored by OTIS) with 10 tips for a student centered classroom using Google Classroom. Register and have access to the recording afterwards if you are unable to attend.

I do not teach a class, I teach a room full of individuals.

Being Student Centered

Deciding to be student centered is not easy, it is probably different than how you were taught. Overcoming what was modeled for me as a math teacher has been one of my greatest challenges.

I do, We do, You do is NOT student centered.

There is definitely a time and place for direct instruction, but generally a student centered classroom does not start with this. (If you are having students use power tools, start with the direct instruction!) My quick and dirty is to “start with the students doing the talking and thinking.” Give them an opportunity to research, explore, and discuss. Have students share out their approach/theory/discovery.

Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate

The 5 E’s lesson plan model is a modern design that starts with engaging students in the learning. This means we have to know who our students are and what they are interested in. They are not interested in Facebook (unless yours are! Ask them.) so an activity that asks them to do a mock Facebook activity might not be as engaging as we thought it would be.

Notice in the 5 E’s lesson plan model that Explain comes THIRD. After students have had a chance to build and make connections with the concept it is highly possible they did not figure out what they needed to learn or did not figure out everything.

One of my favorite examples in the best book ever Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler is a calculus teacher who gives students lemons and asks them to find the volume of the lemon. Wouldn’t you know it, not one group used calculus!! After the students made their attempt and each group shared their approach the teacher then introduces the idea of the integral. “Wait… there is an easier way to do this? Can you show us this integral thing?”

Provide Choices

Voice and Choice… what does that mean? Dr. Heather Lyons, author of the book Engagement is Not a Unicorn (It’s a Narwhal), shared with me that voice is like when it is your birthday and someone asks “Where do you want to go?” Choice is once you are at the restaurant you can choose off the menu. If you are at a Mexican restaurant you can not order orange chicken from Panda Express.

How do students have VOICE in your class?

Student centered is not here is the one assignment and you will all do it (sometimes that is appropriate, but not all the time).

Student centered would allow students to demonstrate the learning objective in a way you did not consider.

A choice board helps to avoid collecting the same thing from every student. Start small, try on practically every assignment giving at least one option. It does not even have to be a great option. “Do the odds or the evens.” Giving students choice provides them a locus of control that gives them better buy in into the class.

Alternative Assessment

Assessment does NOT have to be a test!

Some students test well, others do not. Anxiety, stress, not eating breakfast and a million other reasons can result in test results that do not accurately reflect what a student knows. When you are put on the spot this is possibly not your best recall ability. For example, I know your name… but as you’re standing right in front of me and at this second I need to say your name I can not for the life of me remember what it is. 2 seconds after I turn away, I totally have it. When the pressure is off, my recall improves.

One time I was working with a student and I said “Okay you got this, now quick take the quiz before you forget it.” WHAT?! Listen to myself. First I just assessed them, why do they need to write it down on a quiz. And second… if I think they will forget it in a few minutes then I am valuing writing an answer on a line over true learning.

If a student does not perform well on a test, consider giving them an alternative assessment for full credit. Just because they did not demonstrate their learning on the same day, at the same time, in the same way should not mean their learning was worth less.

Self Evaluation

Especially when students are exercising voice and choice consider having the students SELF EVALUATE before they submit their work. Create a rubric that describes the learning rather than the compliance of the task. Students then indicate on the rubric how they did against the criteria before submitting. I find it to be a lot easier to agree or disagree rather than try to evaluate from scratch.

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