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The Best Laid Plans...

This is a tale of a project that didn't work quite the way I wanted.  For the last weeks of school I turned my classroom over to the students and allowed them to plan and teach the lessons.  It was kind of a mess.  So, I guess they did teach me something and maybe next year I can turn this failure of a project into a success.

The beginning of June came (as it thankfully always does). I had one unit left to teach and 140 7th graders to keep focused until June 28. I had a great idea.  Assign standards to the students, teach them about planning a class and let them teach the classes until the end of the year.  Perfect! They would learn the new material and practice talking in front of the class. I would sit with the class and participate in the lessons like any other student.  I gave them 3 days to plan in class and then we were off (well, sort of - June is full of PD days, meetings, days when the kids are not in school and a 3 day trip I planned).

As you may have guessed from the title, things were not as perfect as I had planned.  Far from it.  I don't think I would call it a complete failure but it has been a hot mess.

Here are the big problems I've encountered: (1) Sometimes the students that are teaching don't know enough about the topic to explain things clearly or explicitly enough so that other students understand the topic (2) the content they are presenting to the class is too hard or too easy (3) the activities are more fun than rigorous (so many useless word searches) (4) the students that are not teaching are not super respectful or attentive. I keeping trying to tell myself that they are learning a lesson in how crappy it feels when you talk when the teacher is talking or how hard it is to do well at something when you are not fully prepared.  And maybe for a few of them, this is happening.  But, for the vast majority of them....not so much.

So, what to do? I definitely want to do this project again or at least have them teach as a final product. Here's what I have come up with:

  • DON'T do this again at the end of the year.  At the end of June I can barely hold their attention.  A group of their peers is going to have an even harder time.
  • I have to review their lessons more carefully before they teach.  Word searches cannot be a thing.
  • The students have to held more accountable for what they are learning.
  • Don't do this at the end of June.  I know I said that one before but it's a big one.
  • Have them teach about something they are more familiar with. Maybe doing this with a completely new unit wasn't the best idea.
I love having the students stand in my shoes for a few days but the next time I do it, it's definitely going to have to happen with better planning....and not in June.


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