Thursday, December 17, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Students Learn by Teaching Others in Ms. Erica Heide's Classroom

In my December 4 blog, I mentioned my plan to spotlight teachers who are using the four C's with their students:  collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.  

Last week I visited Ms. Erica Heide's Government class at Smithfield High School.  The students were learning about Supreme Court cases--not necessarily a topic that lends itself to exciting or engaging lessons.  Typically the approach is to have students copy notes and verify that they know the facts about each case through a multiple choice test.  Yawn...

In Ms. Heide's class, students were taking a different approach to learning about the cases.  Working in groups, students were writing a story about their specific court case. But this was not just any story.  Their story had to be appropriate for a 5 year old.  My first thought was "How do you take cases involving freedom of speech and search and seizure and turn them into a children's story?"

While I was in the room, I saw the four C's in action.  Students were collaborating and communicating with each other to develop an age appropriate story.  They were thinking critically to determine the best way to convert a complicated topic to language that a child would understand.  They unleashed their creativity in their presentations.  Some groups opted to create their story on paper while others developed theirs electronically.  One group wrote their story with a nod to Dr. Seuss complete with rhyming sentences.  I was impressed with how they rhymed "desk" with "grotesque"!  Other stories referenced Mickey Mouse, Little Red Riding Hood and juice boxes. Their imaginations were definitely in high gear.  I thought it would helpful for you to see how this project allowed the seniors to take learning to another level.  If you click on the link below, you can watch a video to find out more about the project and to hear from some of the students themselves.

In Ms. Heide’s design she has asked students to either publish their stories or read them to some of our elementary classes. Having students create work for a larger audience is an important design principle of performance based learning.  When students understand the purpose of their work and their work is to be displayed or presented to a wider audience they typically put more effort into their work.  
Stay tuned for more exceptional examples of classroom instruction that focus on what’s best for every child, every day.