June 27, 2017

Student-Led Learning: It's All Gonna Be Just Fine!

student-led classroom, student designed, teacher facilitator, book study, design in the classroom, classroom climate, teacher as facilitator, student as leader

I opened my Facebook before starting this post to a friend who shared a photo of their kids doing yoga.  She had just woken up and walked out of her bedroom and, there they were, in tree pose and then Dogward Down.  She didn't initiate that, they just did it.  She said, "It's all gonna be just fine ya'all!"  It brought me to this part of the chapter in Fearless Learners that I just read!  

It's all gonna be just fine ya'all!  Just fine!  

If you haven't been following me along in the last few posts I've made (and one over at Conversations From The Classroom), I've been sharing some moments where I've practiced the idea of a Student-led classroom.  I picked up the book Fearless Learners off of Amazon because it was the clearest path I could find in book form to accomplish this very idea-and I'm so glad I did!  I had so many questions swirling after reading the opening that I now feel more grounded in my thoughts after reading Step 2: Design.  Let's take a quick look, shall we?

I love that fact that Sutton and Westberry are honest about what they are doing. They will never hide from you that fact that you will mess-up and that you will have some failures.  In fact, they tell you as you read to expect them and then grow from them-both the students and the teachers themselves.  This is a key component in this journey, because it will look different for everyone!  

They also pose this question from a 2006 TED talk by Sir Ken Roninson.  "HOW are we defining and measuring the student's mastery of a given topic?  Are we fostering a love of learning, of exploring, of problem-solving in real-life applications?"  Honestly, this encompasses the entire chapter on design-there it is, right there!  Sutton and Westberry encourage you to live in this spot when you are designing without ever saying this directly.  And, even more importantly, they point to how you should hand this to the students themselves.  And that's where it all starts.  Students in their classrooms design their own schedules each day.  They provide an example of a third grade classroom that also designs their day!  It can be done!  Once students design their day, they follow a scale.  I would akin this to a rubric.  They point out that their scales are made WITH THE STUDENTS!  I enjoyed a sample where they actually put model question into the scale so that students could visualize what they MUST be able to do from the standards.  This is another key component.  The students KNOW the standards, are able to explain the standards, are able to DEFEND how they know they've mastered it!  Having seen this with my own students, I can tell you-they CAN do this!  I've just never done this on this scale!  

Students also know when they are assessment ready!  Within this system comes the topic of time and assessment ready!  Kids are well aware of when they are because they are taking their time! "What!!", you say!  Sutton and Westberry point out a key component here.  This would happen in a regular classroom anyways!  You would assess and then remediate.  Why not give the time at the front, where it matters!  Imagine that one-we'd actually be teaching again!  

Over and over, across the text, you will see every argument you may have for Student-led learning shot down!  These ladies know their stuff!  They provide the cautions, the ideas, and the space (it is set up like a journal) to read and reflect about the realities of the Student-led Classroom in your life-and how to design to meet your needs.  I will say, some of this looks very traditional based in an untraditional layout, so there is some comfort in your world if you think you have to drop everything and jump right in.  They will tell you they are not textbook dependent, but they do use them within their model of learning-just in a totally different way!  So, here's a little glance at my first "scale" for my math block.  Take a peek and let me know what you think!  I'll be back with more in a few days!

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