When We Let Our Students Plan Our Lessons

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“…So what do you want to do?”

5 hands shoot into the air and our discussion quickly gets underway.  As one student shares an idea for a long-term project, another quickly jumps in with their take, and a picture starts to emerge of just what we can accomplish.  As students figure out whether they want to work alone or with partners, what they want to create, and what the objective should be, my brain calms down.  I knew the students would know what to do, I knew the students would have a better idea than mine.  And now, after 15 minutes of discussion, socials studies for the next 4 weeks has been planned with every student excited and aware of what they will be doing.  Welcome to lesson planning in my classroom.

Augustine didn’t care that I had not written sub plans.  Nor did she care that we had no sub.  She arrived when she wanted to and I have furiously been trying to keep my classroom “normal” ever since that day.  Or at least as normal as you can when you have different subs and your brain is rather fuzzy.  This week I returned to school part-time, not just to offer my students a sense of transition to a long-term sub in February, but also to see if they were up for the biggest challenge of the year; working independently with teachers as coaches, not leaders. And oh, are they ever.

All year, I push my students to be independent learners, to carve their own path, to take control of how they learn something, not just how much they learn.  All year, I challenge them to speak up, to step up, and to push for a better education.  One that revolves more around their own needs, rather than just what the curriculum says.  I have told them they need to be independent learners.  I have pushed them to be independent learners.  Now is their time to actually do it.

We don’t know who the subs will be in the afternoon, we hope that they will come back more than once, but we have to plan like every afternoon brings a new face that has no idea what we are doing.  So the students and I decided that together we would come up with a plan that covered all of the curriculum but freed up a poor sub from reading lengthy lesson plans, and my students from being taught straight out of the book.

I could have come up with my own project.  I could have told them exactly what the plan would be.  I even could have created a great learning opportunity for them.  But I needed their buy-in, I needed their excitement, their independence for this to work.  So instead of more me, it became more them.  Instead of more text book, it become more research.  Instead of one size fits all, we will now have more than 20 student-driven projects ready to be presented come February.  All of them will learn the material, all of them will become experts on something, all of them will create.  And they all had something to say.

When was the last time you let your students lesson plan with you?





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