Saturday, November 10, 2012

Student Centered Learning

   This week I started teaching Ancient India.  So far this has been my favorite unit in Social Studies to teach, probably because of how I decided to teach it.  With the common core being implemented we are really pushed to use student centered learning instead of teacher centered.  For my Ancient India unit I put together a book project for my students to do in groups.  Each day the groups had tasks to learn by and then products to make for their books.  For example, for the day they were learning about religion they had to read a magazine I had with an article about Hinduism and then also an article about Buddhism.  They then made a Venn Diagram comparing the two religions in Ancient India.  While they are reading the articles each group member is also taking their own notes for their notebooks and then discussing what they are reading.  This really benefits me as I get to spend more time working one on one with students by pulling each group and discussing what they are learning.  I schedule 10 minute conferences for each group every day and write down informal observations on what they are learning and what I may need to teach to the class for better understanding.  My students are loving being able to work in groups and hearing their discussions really has shown me that they are capable of learning without me being in the front of the room.

What I have learned about student centered learning

1)  It has to be organized. Students have to know exactly what you expect them to learn. Just giving them an article and saying read this and takes notes isn't enough. They have to be guided with discussion questions and have already learned good note taking skills.  Each person also has to have a role within the group so that every person is involved and not just left copying notes from another group member.

2) It has to be modeled first.  Before I started this unit, I had already taught students how to work in literature circles, how to do group readings and how to take good notes.  Without these things I'm sure my students would have been off task and not learning what I wanted them to.

3)  Conferences are essential.  If I'm not teaching then I still have to be helping my students in some way.  It is nice not to be at the front of the room but that doesn't mean that I'm just kicking back grading papers. When I pull groups for a conference I ask each member to tell me something they have learned.  If they can't tell me anything then they probably are not participating and I then give them a new role in the group.  If they are lost then it is time for me to teach the group the topic they are confused with.  If they aren't taking good notes, then conferencing is the time when I model to them how find main ideas within a passage.  After each group I conference with, I walk around and make sure every group is on task before pulling the next group.

4)  It works different for every group of students.  I am only doing the book project with my advanced students.  My standard students are being taught the same information but as a whole class and then making their own products instead of as a group.  During this unit I am modeling how they would work with a group.  I'm thinking aloud and letting them hear me form discussion questions.  It may take me modeling how to work in groups another month before I turn the reins completely over to them.

How do you implement student center learning in your classroom? How do you differentiate instruction within student groups?
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