Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Online Assignment #3 -- Kate Kristian

What is a student-focused learning environment?

When I think about a student-focused learning environment, the first thing that comes to mind is choice.
With teacher and adult guidance, students are able to choose writing topics and select books and other text that they are interested in reading. Students are involved in the learning process and feel connected to the day to day lesson content. Students are also involved in how the classroom runs as a whole. These expectations are established at the start of the school year as students begin to build a community of learners and are revisited (and possibly revised) frequently. Students have control over classroom decisions and take on roles or jobs to ensure that things run smoothly.

How do you create it?

As a second grade teacher, I have found that the workshop model in both reading and writing supports a student-focused learning environment. The workshop model is made up of the following components:

· Mini-lesson (teaching point, guided practice)

· Independent work time

o Students are reading/writing independently

o Teacher(s) are conferencing with individual students and small groups of students

· Whole group share

o Typically led by the teacher

o Highlights 2-3 students who began using or tried out the skill taught in the mini-lesson

o Gives students time to share their work and ideas with fellow classmates

In addition, a student-focused learning environment is created through:

· Frequent and systematic assessment

· Assessment-based instruction

· Individualized and small group instruction through conferences and strategy sessions to ensure students are working at their maximum instructional level

· Differentiated instruction

· Regular time for student goal setting and reflection

· Clear student expectations

· Frequent teacher feedback in response to student work and accomplishments

How do you sustain it?

A student-focused learning environment is sustained when teachers make a commitment to its principals. Students need to be engaged in the workshop format at least 4 days a week and teachers need to stay true to a consistent format of instruction. Time also needs to be set aside for assessment where teachers review and analyze student work in order to plan for instruction. Without administrative and grade-level team support this can be difficult for teachers to accomplish.