Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Student led classroom?

“In participatory, cooperative classrooms, the walls between teacher and students have a chance to become lower. Freire referred to the separation of teacher and students as the first obstacle to learning. To bring them together, teachers can identify themes and words important to students and ask them to be co-investigators of that material with the teacher.. . . the class hour itself is structured so that students reflect on meaningful questions and influence the direction of the syllabus” (29).

Shor discusses a class where he worked hard to create a “mutual learning community.” I feel strongly that students teach each other, almost as much as I have to offer them. By giving students a voice, they can help to drive the learning process in their classrooms, and as a result often make meaning of their work. As a result, I am trying something new with my honors class this quarter. We are reading October Sky. A requirement for the memoir is for the students to choose a significant quote and to write an explanation to go along with it. These quotes serve as the springboards for conversation in class the next day. By allowing students to discuss an work with the material that they feel is interesting or important to them, gives my students a chance to show each other what is ‘worthy’ of noting within the chapters. I have found myself putting aside my traditional lesson plans, and letting them really take the reigns of the class. I’m still struggling on how to assess them with this!


  1. Kate - I like your lesson. I do something similar where I have students bring in their own quotes and we all respond to it and have a class discussion about it. They have ranged from religious quotes to Marilyn Monroe and have sparked great discussions.

    Also, the quote you cite and much of Shor's other work reminds me of Campana from last semester. He also talked about how the student's should help shape the curriculum.

  2. Kate - Your lesson sounds great and like it could be assessed with a rubric I found online. I'll bring you a copy next week! It is difficult to measure a student's ability to relate to the material, but it sounds like your kids are going to love the work!

  3. Kate,

    That's awesome! I find that even though I generally teach the same things year to year, the discussion enriches each lesson differently. The discussion takes the topics to new and different levels which is so much fun! As far as how to assess about having them keep "Notable quote journals" or something. They can compile them as they go along and write an essay at the end or something.....Got to love all the English correcting! Lol

  4. Thanks girls! Lauren-- I'd love a rubric! Megan-- they are keeping journals, and there is a modified Socratic seminar for their final project-- YAY!

  5. Simply being a younger teacher I find my wall is already a little lower. I find I can relate to the students. Even something as silly as their excuses, “I was not there that long ago. Do you really think I will fall for that.” Talking to them about me taking classes is always a hot topic. Students love to relate to you and see you as a person, not just a teacher. When you use their language and words they really connect with you and will listen to you.

  6. Lindsay, I totally agree with your point. What were we called last semester the "comfy" teachers? Students tend to feel more comfortable with us because of our age and the fact that we probably all try create caring and involved classrooms.

    Kate, I really like your lesson with October Sky. It also gives you a little insight into each student and their interests and interpretations of the reading.