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Science teachers, have you read Chris Emdin’s first book “Urban Science Education for the Hip Hop Generation”? His ideas always pump me up to return to the classroom. He offers simple -but strategic-ways to engage with your students. The fact that it was written for science teachers, by a science teacher?! The best.
Sometimes it feels like all these good ideas don’t fit so well in a science lab.
But having his writings have made me and my classroom feel seen in the larger educational world. So, when his second book came out “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…” I instantly started to read through it. Chapter 5 is called ‘Coteaching’ and in it he writes about giving kids the tools to teach a lesson. This practice can show you how your students interpret the content. Emdin recommends giving them the standard, and any tools you would use to plan a lesson. As a middle school teacher, I have modified it so my kids aren’t planning out the lesson. Let me explain how I set my 6th graders up for success to teach!
First, find out who wants to teach
Last year at semester, I dipped my toes into letting students teach. Choosing, on my own, a few students who could use the extra motivation and be seen by their peers. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. This year, I asked on their mid-year surveys for me, if they WANT to teach. They could answer Yes, No, Maybe. Most of the kids answered that they want their peers to teach, but they didn’t want to do it. So, I have only been pulling kids who enthusiastically want to lead a lesson. But, it has inspired other kids to ask how they get signed up to teach. They forgot I asked them 2 months prior. Once I get through all the yes list, I’ll ask anyone who said maybe if they want to teach next.
Once you have decided on your group of kids, you need to identify kids that will do well for that specific lesson.
If it’s more a review, I can have a kid that is struggling a bit. If it’s introducing a lab, I’ll choose a kid who can handle that extra responsibility. I also don’t have kids teach the whole lesson. Be intentional and choose a specific part that a 6th grader could handle. And it is not everyday, as that would be too much for my plate right now.
Look at your week’s lessons. Choose one that you can let go for part of it, and that a student could handle teaching comfortably.
What I do is bring students in for a lunch to practice teaching
Find a specific section (around 15-20 minutes worth) for students to teach. Bonus is I am better prepared for my lessons. I have to know what I’m asking the kids to do. Knowing which part I am comfortable handing over the reigns to is most important to identify. Then decide what instructional moves would be best for kids that day, etc all need to be ready early. My student assistant drops off a slip that morning to kids who will teach that week, and they come in for lunch that day. I recommend having lunch the same day as the slips, otherwise middle school brains forget to come by. During lunch, introduce the slides that they will teach and give them the lesson’s handout.
Then give each student time to teach in the small group.
I will give feedback, and say things like “grab someone’s work for a show call here”. It pulls back the curtain on teaching. I feel like I’m showing my kids the things that they see me do and why I do it. P.S. they love doing a show call, and they also love using the PowerPoint clicker. That’s the main thing they ask when they come in- “do I get to use your clicker? With the laser pointer??”.
After that practice, you let your students teach
When they come into class the next day, I remind them they are teaching. They are very anxious all of class until it is their turn. I announce who will be teaching, hand them the clicker. And then I GO SIT DOWN. Don’t hover and try not to intervene too often. Unless they are trying to talk and the class isn’t listening. Then I remind the teacher that they should do an attention getter.
Best part is that I sit with my class and work side by side with kids.
I’ve given myself some additional time for one on one’s by doing this. Plus, it’s fun to sit with the kids and ask questions to keep whole class conversations going. My student teachers stumble through the lesson- being too quiet, not waiting for silence, and reading the slides. But it reminds me each day of what I was like as a new teacher. Hopefully it gives students a little bit more confidence when speaking in front of peers (and an appreciation for teaching).
Give this a try in your classroom! It’s kinda strange at first, but the more you let students teach, the easier it gets. If we all start giving our kids a voice, (and some power) we might inspire some future teachers! Check out Chris Emdin’s books to learn about some other engaging ways to involve your students. If you have any questions for me, drop them in the comments below or send me an email. I’d love to share my experience with letting students teach with others who want to try it out. Teaching is all about collaboration! And if you do try it out, tag me(@teaching.on.lipstick_n_lattes) on your social so I can see and cheer you on!