I seem to write about big changes a lot. You know the kind that changes the way you teach, how school is done, and how students function in your classroom. And while I love my big changes (I would never go back) I also know that it can be kind of hard to do some of these big changes all at once or even at all. Sometimes policies stand in our way, other times it is our own courage that is lacking, or our preconceived notion of what students will be able to handle. And yet, you want to change, but just not in a big way (yet…) so how about some little changes to get you started?
Instead of getting rid of all homework how about eliminating it in one subject? While I am proponent of not assigning any, even I sometimes have to. So a way to change the way you do homework is to just not give it in one subject. Check in with students during class and eliminate the thing you were going to use to check in on what they knew. Try it, see if you like it, and then see if you try more subjects.
Instead of doing all project-based, how about converting one topic? Project-based learning can be really daunting if you are looking to transform your entire curriculum to hands-on learning, so how about you start with just one segment of your curriculum? How about the next social studies project? Or adding in some science? Get your feet wet, and those of your students, and then see if you can do it again.
Instead of getting rid of grades how about asking your students to set them with you? This is a great way to work within policies that mandate you give grades. Doing it together with students starts a learning dialogue and creates ownership. When they get to set, discuss, and defend their own grade they reach a deeper understanding of their own knowledge and needs.
Instead of a whole day of innovation how about one hour? I am a huge proponent of Innovation Day but also understand how it can seem overwhelming or doomed to fail by some (yet trust me it is worth it). If you are not sure how a whole day of letting students create will look like, try Genius Hour first. This one hour innovation is a great way to get students into a creation groove and also allows you to iron out any misunderstandings.
Instead of connecting your students with the world how about connecting them with one class? We often feel like our students should be engaged in a global conversation, and yet, that can be a lot to set up, oversee and maintain. So rather than focusing on the whole world, how about focusing on just one deep connection with another class? I have often found that a focused connection is more meaningful than many superficial ones.
Instead of an hour of project time how about just 10 minutes? My students and I like to do projects. The students lesson plan with me while making sure we cover everything we need to (and then some) and then they get to work on their projects. But if this seems like it would be frightening or you are not sure that your students could handle a whole hour of self-directed work then give them 10 minutes at the end of class. This way you can support in a concentrated dosage and students still get to work on something more hands-on. As you get more comfortable you can expand the time.
There are so many things we can change to create more student-centered learning environments. All it takes is one small step in the right direction and you have started on your path to change.