Creating an amazing classroom culture needs many things. It requires that you care, you model and practice what you preach, and partner with parents. But, as important as all of those things are in creating your own personal edutopia, none of that matters if you do not give back the control of learning back to your kids.
When kids control the learning in the classroom, they own it. Ownership gives your classroom a responsibility you cannot teach. Trusting you class with more and more control can be a scary concept. It is one that goes against everything that used to be ingrained into the previous generations of schools and teachers. By building a classroom culture where kids are in control of their learning, students become invested in the class. Owning their successes and failures is a huge part of having a successful classroom culture.
What steps can you take to giving back the classroom to the learners?
If you are in a 1:1 environment, you have limitless options! You can do so many things using different sites and apps for sharing and learning. With 1:1 having anything other than a classroom in which learners are in control is both wasteful and I contend more difficult.
For those of us not fortunate enough to work in a 1:1 environment here are some simple steps to help create more kid control.
– Let kids design the classroom layout. (I gave my kids a few guidelines based on areas I wanted to create) they did the rest. Since they did that, their learning has improved. They also have choice of where they want to work. When they are asked to perform a task, they are given the option of where they want to work as well. As long as they are accomplishing their task, they can lay on the floor, work at a shared table, or at a desk.
– Give kids options for what they are going to do, and when they are going to do it. Not only does this teach time management responsibility, but it also gives them a greater feeling of control!
– Use Project Based Learning. Passion projects, service projects, genius hour (20 time), maker spaces and others are all great ways to give kids control and purpose for their learning. Try it out and be amazed at how much harder your kids will work than during any lesson you have taught before.
– Get out-of-the-way! In a workshop given by Amanda Hartman @amandalah at the Teacher College Reading & Writing Project’s Spring Saturday reunion, I heard a message that I don’t think I will ever forget. Students need to use the tools at their disposal to learn, if they first thing they do is ask you for help, you become the learning tool. Do you want to be a tool? No! Get out-of-the-way, direct them to the learning tools! Be a coach, a director, a traffic cop! Stay out-of-the-way and just point them in the right direction.
This will not make your classroom totally student directed. It will not guarantee a perfect classroom culture, even when combined with the various other concepts I have discussed in the previous posts. It will however, bring you closer to the goal of student ownership and responsibility that drives a successful classroom. For those of you reading that think this impossible because of this or that, all of these things I did this year to help a 1st Grade classroom grow in what will be considered an inclusion room when they move to second grade. I have limited tech and I parlayed two periods of aide-supported class time through advocating for my kids. The only reason you can truly give for not giving control back to your kids, is that you don’t want to/are afraid to do it.
Give kids the power and watch them fly!