“I think somewhere in the last few years I slipped into trying to control their learning. I wanted to capture their excitement and curiosity by making them do incredible things…and we did. But at what cost?”
This is why I try to ask students what they want to learn. Of course at the beginning of the year, they don’t trust me or anyone else. They think this question is a trap. So, I try to work out ways to help them feel comfortable sharing this information.
I try to get them to share things that interest them. I have them work with a partner and their partner has to introduce them to the class by sharing at least 2 things they are interested in. I put a limit on it because they may say that nothing interests them but by giving them a specific number, most can come up with at least 2 things. I keep a list of all the topics to use for lessons later.
A month later as we learn to trust each other, I may ask them to list 2 things that they are good at. I want to know what topics they would be bored with and they are usually quick to tell me what they don’t want to learn about. They feel they know all they need to know about certain topics. I keep a list of these and who gave me the topic. This can be used to have them talk more about these topics in a lesson.
Some lessons can be individually designed so each student can learn more about what they are interested in. Sometimes I can make a list of 5 topics and have students check off the top 3 that interest them and then I have them learn in small groups. I might think the topic is worth having the whole class learn more about it but work on individual assessments.
I think it is important to allow students input into the topics that are taught. If I have to teach a specific subject area, I may chose topics within that subject and let students have some choices about the topics. Then I can bring all of these topics together at the end for a big conclusion.
Just because I am given standards of some kind, there is no reason that I can’t adapt them to fit my class’s individual needs and interests. The more input that the students have in the decision making process, the more vested they will be in learning. When they feel they are getting something useful out of the learning, the more engaged they will be. Isn’t that the way most of us feel?
How do you involve the student’s in their own learning? Please share.