What An Eight-Year-Old Taught Me About Teaching

Today, my students had an amazing opportunity: one of my Grade 2 students from last year came down to the class to teach an art lesson. This student attended an art camp in the summer, and he learned cartooning. He planned a cartooning mini-lesson for my class and then a follow-up design challenge too.

It was incredible to watch. (Please note that external speakers will help with the sound.)

Here’s what this eight-year-old taught me today:

1) Breaking down instructions is important. This student went step-by-step through how to make a cartoon character. He demonstrated each part of the process, and he gave the chance for all students to follow along with him. These short instructions accompanied by a visual model made a difference. All students were successful because all students knew exactly what to do.

2) Talk less. As a teacher, I know that reducing “teacher talk” is important, but as I watched today’s lesson, I realized just how much we can reduce what we say. This student said little but showed a lot. I think there’s value in this.

3) Watch your students. In the video, you can see just how often this student looks down, scans the room, and makes sure that everyone is doing what they need to do. Students should drive our lessons, and this student ensures that they do.

4) The quieter that you are, the quieter that your students will be too. You help set the tone for the class. All of the students remained calm and quiet throughout the lesson, and the “student teacher” remained calm and quiet as well. The students followed his example, and he set a great one!

5) Pacing matters. In the video, you can see that as the lesson goes on, this student realizes the value of pacing even more. He never goes too fast, but he ensures that he doesn’t go too slow either. He waits to make sure that the class is ready for him to move on, but he knows the he doesn’t need to wait for everyone. He ensures that he doesn’t lose the students by moving too slowly or too quickly.

Thank you to this incredible eight-year-old that not only taught a great art lesson where all students experienced success, but also taught me some valuable lessons.

Have you ever had a student teach your class before? What did you learn from him/her? I would love to hear about your experiences as well!


10 thoughts on “What An Eight-Year-Old Taught Me About Teaching

  1. HI Aviva,
    What rich observations! Your guest teacher made a great impression. I guess teaching about something you are passionate about also helps. (Maybe that’s lesson #6 from the experience.)
    I have had students teach lessons. Two grade 8 taught our grade 3s last year about First Nations dancing because they attended a Heritage Fair competition that also had a workshop on native dancing. Then there’s the impromptu “stop the class to let the student explain something” – like today when a grade 3 girl remembered last year’s lesson about the Canadian Clip Art collection and went around explaining where to find it and how to use it. However, I think I don’t do it enough – another personal challenge I can try to meet!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Diana, and for observation #6 too. You’re very right about that, and he’s definitely very passionate about art.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences too! While I’ve had students “teach” more lessons over the past couple of years, I still don’t do it as much as I’d like. Today reminded me about the importance of giving students this leadership role.


  3. #4 is so important. I notice that my students noise level changes and adjusts to the adult that comes into the room. For example if a supply teacher comes in rushed and loud the kids noise level goes up too. I speak very quietly and calmly in my room. I also find keeping the lights dim helps keep things calmer. I’m amazed when I come back in the room and all the lights are on and the noise level is loud. I turn off a row or two of lights and talk softly and the kids settle too.
    Thanks for sharing your reflections. We all need to talk less like you mentioned in #2.

  4. Thanks Angie! You’re so right about the noise level and the lights. I notice this in my classroom too. It’s amazing how a small change can have such a big impact. And yes, we do all need to talk less. No matter how much I work on this, I’m convinced I’ll always be working on it.


  5. I love it Aviva. What a wonderful resource to draw upon. Has this inspired other students in your class to share/teach a lesson to the rest of the class? I find during our weekly big buddy time my students love to share (teach) what they are learning with their big buddies, and we love to learn parts of the grade five curriculum from them too.

    It is also wonderful that you can see the value in good teaching (not once did I ever doubt that you could) and perhaps it will transfer to each of your students when they are in a position to teach a fellow classmate or friend.

    Please let your student teacher know that I will be teaching my students what I learned from him too. 🙂 I know they will love to draw similar characters. Karen

  6. Thanks so much for the comment, Karen! It’s funny: after he had finished his lesson, others started talking about teaching the class too. I’m excited to see what happens as the year goes on.

    Thank you too for sharing his lesson with your students as well! He’ll be so excited to hear this!


  7. Hi Aviva,
    A great post as always with a number of good observations. I also believe the respect and rapport between the teacher student and students is also part of the mix. I feel we are all here to teach each other and we need to take advantage of every opportunity.
    Many thanks as always for inviting us in.

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