Getting out of their way…

Here’s the post that I set out to write last week, but then had to get in their way and so wrote about that instead.

After attending George’s (I’m sticking with his first name from here on out because if you don’t know who I’m talking about, then you don’t know me) Creating Blended Learning Environments session at NCTIES (which was somewhat awkward because he started by letting us know that he doesn’t think blended learning exists…it’s just called learning) and listening to him talk about putting the cognitive load back on the students instead of carrying it ourselves, I decided to change a few things.

I’m fairly student-centered as it is, to be honest.

However, I still do teacher-y things like spending hours searching for and curating resources to use with my students.  I spend lots of time looking for the perfect video or clip for whatever lesson that I’m teaching.  George told us to spin it around.

For example, instead of spending hours looking at 50 videos for the perfect one to teach probability, we should give that job to the students and ask them to justify their choice.  That way, those who aren’t already in the know watch the 50 videos on probability and have to reflect upon and reason out which one does the best job.  Brilliant.

I decided to start this in a small way with spelling.  As I sat down to plan the weekly spelling lessons, I was groaning in my head.  I realized that if I was already over the whole thing, the students weren’t going to be any more excited than I was.  So…  I decided to flip it around.

I taught each of my three spelling groups a five-ish minute lesson on the spelling pattern.  Then, they broke into groups and used this to plan and organize a spelling lesson that THEY were going to teach to other students.  They even had to come up with the word lists by identifying important words to know with that pattern and how many were a fair number to learn.


They used our literacy workshop time to search out resources and craft their lesson.  Many found videos from YouTube.  Most created a Google Slides presentation.  Some created games using Flippity.  One group created a Google Site.

On the appointed day, each group presented to two other groups of students.  After the presentations, each student filled out a Google form reflecting on the experience and sharing some knowledge about their spelling pattern.

How’d it go?  Pretty well, I’d say.

In my opinion, they learned the spelling pattern just as well or better than had I designed a bunch of activities for them to complete.  They spent a bit longer on the creation of the products than I would’ve liked, but that was completely on them.  They love them some Google Slides.  Their products were beautiful, so I can’t argue too much.

According to them, 64% loved it and 36% said that how we learned spelling didn’t matter to them.  No one said that they didn’t like it.


Wins for my students:

  • They learned their spelling pattern.
  • They communicated their learning with others.
  • They taught someone else their spelling pattern.
  • They learned (or were at least exposed to) another spelling pattern.
  • They created something.

Wins for the teacher:

  • They learned their spelling pattern.
  • I spent minimal time planning.
  • I was available to help and coach when needed.

Will I do this again?  Yes.  And I will be moving in this direction with more instruction as well.

So often, handing the learning to the kids and getting out of their way is the best way for everyone to reach the goal.  I’m going to try and remember this the next time my teacher-y instincts try to take over.


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