Monday, February 28, 2011

Students Lead Lesson and Learning

Thanks to my tech-savvy hubby, who showed me how to alter my post date, I actually wrote this blog entry days before my regularly scheduled reflection. However, it was so powerful for me on so many levels that I had to write it before any of the details faded.

Today, I had a grade 3 class in the library for our media literacy lesson. We had a new student to the class, and so I asked the class to share our definition of media. (One of these days, I promise to create a YouTube video of our definition because it has actions and everything.) The kids chanted: "Media is made by people, for people. You can see it, hear it, feel it, wear it, experience it - and all media has a message." The new student, to her credit, said "Wait. How do you wear media?"

The students were eager to explain, and so they took over. (All these quotes are paraphrases.)
"T-shirts have messages on them."
"Look at Mz Molly's sweatshirt. That's an example of media."
(I was wearing my school hoodie, with the name of the school on the front and staff on the back.)
"So if it's media, then what's the message?"
"It shows that she works at this school."
"Yeah, that's the 'out loud' (overt) message."

I asked, "So, what's the quiet (implied) message? What does it say about how I feel about the school, about what's valued?"
The kids chimed in with their theories, about liking the school, being proud, and being a teacher.
"So why does it say 'staff' on the back and not teacher?", I responded.
There was a lot of talk about that. Even the Educational Assistant that came with the class joined in. The discussion branched into how EAs jobs are slightly different from teachers' jobs, but that we all had the same goal - to help students learn (other kids suggested our common goal was "to help us get smarter", "to help us get better grades", and other ideas). I was feeling pretty content, especially because our character trait focus of the month was on inclusion.

And then E, a little bespectacled girl, spoke up.
"But that's missing some people."
"What do you mean?" I asked."Well, teachers learn too, don't they? And sometimes they learn from their students, right? And students can learn from other students - you tell us that. So actually, the students help students learn too, not just the grown-ups. But they aren't the staff."

I was blown away.

Hello - learning commons concepts anyone? This 8-year-old gave me a great wake up call.

The comments stemming from her observation were both cute and poignant.
"Well, if we got to wear staff sweatshirts, maybe we could go through the secret door (there's a door that's marked 'staff only') or eat in the staff room."
"Oh, but they have other shirts that have Macphail on it but don't have staff on it. We could wear those instead."

This student lesson take-over only took about ten minutes or so, but I was so impressed by what came out of their mouths. (Icing on the cake was that the rest of the period was an exercise in games-based education, the principal came in to watch because it looked so engaging, and the kids were able to articulate what they were doing, what they learned from playing the game [Webkinz] and how the lessons learned could apply to other areas of curriculum and life.)

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