For a long time now, I’ve been reading numerous blog posts by George Couros, a principal in Alberta, and Shawn Ram, a teacher in Alberta, about giving everyone the opportunity to be a leader. Seeing what they’ve done with the students at their school is incredible, but I was still somewhat skeptical that six-year-olds would really be able to “lead” others. At Meet the Teacher Night on Thursday though, I was amazed with what I saw. The students were teaching their parents and siblings how to use the Livescribe Pen. Listen here, as one student explains the process to his mom, and then together, they leave a comment for us.
Wow! While I was circulating around the classroom and talking to parents and students, the children themselves were leading this activity. They were problem-solving, they were helping each other, and they were being real leaders. George and Shawn were right: all students have leadership potential!
As I’m taking all of this in, I then watch another student walk around the classroom with her mom, dad, and brother. She has started at the door, and step-by-step, she has explained everything we do during the day. She is making reference to the anchor charts in the classroom, she is thinking aloud, and really, this six-year-old, is being the most remarkable teacher I have ever seen. I stand behind her family as she explains the writing centre to them, even explaining the importance of all of the conventions in a list, and in that second, I have my a-ha moment! Why do I review the literacy and math centres each day when the students can take on this leadership role? I decide then, at around 6:30 on Thursday night, that I am going to change.
The next day, during literacy centre time, I tell the students all of the amazing things that I saw last night, and I let them know that today, they are going to lead. Students select each other to come up and review the literacy centres. They ask many of the same questions that I’ve asked before, and even remind each other about what to do at the centres when they need help, and what I would want to see as I’m walking around the room. They think aloud during this review time, and they make sure that all of the students understand what is expected by asking questions and sharing past examples. They even remind the class about how to sit and listen. Another teacher walks into the class during this time, and is in awe of what’s happening. I’m sitting on the floor with the children, and the children are standing up and instructing each other.
The most incredible part was during the centre time itself: never have I had such few questions or such few requests for help, especially so early in the year. I think that by hearing the instructions from each other, the students realized that they really can ask each other for help, and so they did. They saw each other as leaders, and seeing this, changed everything!
Thank you George and Shawn! Without the two of you, I would have never made the changes that I made on Friday, and I know that I will be a better teacher now as a result. I can’t wait to see our class of leaders in action again next week!
September 20, 2010
Today, I continued with this approach by allowing my students to be leaders and reviewing the math centres with the class. By sitting back and watching, I was also able to ask them guiding questions that allowed me to ensure their understanding of the material and continue to develop their skills too. The video footage that I got from today’s centre review gives me some wonderful electronic portfolio data. I can’t wait to see what the students have to say tomorrow!
Video Of Student Giving Instructions For A Math Centre Activity
If you’ve used this leadership approach before, how did you get started? What did you think of giving students these leadership opportunities? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Amazing article! I can just imagine the level of confidence and sense of achievement that the class felt. Everyone likes to feel heard and what a wonderful way to accomplish this. As a teacher you can monitor and evaluate their learning while they get to be a leader.
Wow! Thank you so much for the lovely comment. You just made my day!
I completely agree with you too! I got so much from watching the students in their leadership role. I can’t wait to continue to see our class of leaders in action!
Great post, that is amazing stuff you did with your kids, I love that it worked even with kids so young. Your blog is going to be a valuable resource to me as I look to strengthen my skills with younger students. My school is K-9 but all my teaching experience is 7-9 so I am glad that there are blogs that speak to working with early years students. Keep up the great work, and keep writing about it, there are many of us out here that can learn a lot from your inspiring posts.
I’m speechless, Jesse! Thank you so much for your kind words. My students continue to amaze and inspire me each day. Regardless of age, it’s incredible what all students can do in the classroom if you believe that they’re able to do it! @TDSB_Chris, a former Director of Education for our Board, taught me about the power of “believing” in all students, and that continues to make an impact on me today.
I think it’s amazing that as a principal, you’re so driven to learn more about what you can do to help the youngest learners in your school. I hope that you’ll share the many success stories that are sure to come out of your journey.
‘Regardless of age, it’s incredible what all students can do in the classroom if you believe that they’re able to do it!’ That’s it, Aviva – amazing things happen when you trust the learner, when you give them a voice and empower them to take control of the learning. Sounds like you are going to have an wonderful year!
Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate it. I’m so excited to see what this year brings! I think that it’s going to be a wonderful one.
I hope that you have a great year too!
WOW!! Again, your eagerness to try something new means that some very lucky 6-yr-olds will be enriched on their journey of school. Almost makes me wish I had little ones again. Almost. 🙂
Wow! Thank you, Cyndie! Your comment means so much to me. I feel very fortunate to learn alongside wonderful people like you that really inspire me to take risks and try new things. I appreciate all of your support!
Thanks for sharing this, Aviva. I’m convinced that the more we hand over to the kids, the more responsibility they take for their own learning. One of the biggest things teachers need to do to get kids to be more active participants in their own learning is to relinquish control… You’ve shown it’s possible even with the youngest of kids!
Thanks so much for such a nice comment! Watching what happened on Friday and today, I’m convinced that you’re right. It really is important to give students responsibility for their learning.