This week I observed a class that made me realize how simple changes can impact on how students interact, learn and do things. The teacher told me about all her challenges with the group, teens that come to English classes just after their regular school hours – sometimes even without eating lunch. She mentioned her struggle to connect those quiet students.
Two very simple ideas that she used made all the difference – the seating arrangement and the teacher’s attitude toward learning, First, she decided to have students work for the whole class in clusters of three, so they were gently “forced” to look at, talk to and interact with each other. The other successful strategy the teacher used was choosing a task-based, discovery-induced approach to learning. The teacher didn’t give much room for students to space out, they were always doing something that required solving problems, finding solutions, collaborating. Instructions were verbs. Performance was at its highest.
And here I’m back to that concept of us, educators, trying a more Do It Yourself What You Can Do For Yourself approach to learning. Students need to be stimulated to learn. They need challenges, not lectures. They need to do, create and remix things. They are the ones who need to make sense of things. We need to be exceptional observers to intervene only when necessary. We need to teach less and let students mature concepts and flourish as learners and human beings. Let’s try to be more on the emergent spectrum of teaching/learning, giving room for a thriving community of learners who are there with you, who feel excited about being in class and not counting the minutes to leave it.
Observing my colleague teaching made me realize that the details, such as seating arrangement and the words you use for the tasks (preferably action verbs), and the right attitude matter tremendously when it comes to make classes more enjoyable and productive for us and our students.