Participating in Education: Promoting Active Students & Parents

These overhead pens always sit in the middle of the classroom on a bench, waiting for students to contribute.  This is one of the many ways students are welcomed to contribute to their own education.  Instead of a stand and deliver singular teacher, our classroom has 31 teachers who all put up notes, teacher each other, and ask each other questions.  Education is turning the corner to an active and personalized activity and must leave the docile stationary sponge model (student) behind.  When education is active, it is engaging and authentic and owned, and its fun!

I admit I used to do the stand and deliver model.  It was how I was taught and it has taken some time to break free.  Also, it is my job to ‘teach’ the PLO’s and frankly some courses are so fact laden it is difficult to get it all in, even in a lecturing mode.  With that said, I put every effort my own processes, and into my student teachers, the next generation, to promote students to be out of their seats and collaborating and learning from one another.  My current student teacher has been fully on board and has students doing at least one collaborative activity that requires mixing, movement, and communication, every day.  So far so good because we have taken in evidence (assessments) that show students are still able to understand, use, and elaborate on subject matter.  However for the most part, getting students involved has been relatively easy, even the perceived ‘reluctant’ ones.  The trick is getting the parents to be active participants in their kid’s school and education.

Given that many parents of secondary school kids are working, there is still a huge willingness to be involved and be kept in the loop.  In today’s day and age of technology and interconnectedness, there are so many tools to communicate with parents.  Blogs, twitter and tools such as http://www.twiducate.com are great for allowing parents to see and get involved in their kids education.  Blogs allow for parents to see comments, and participate by leaving comments.  This worked wonderfully on my latest school trip to Europe.  A collection of parents told me they were checking the blog 2-3 times a day like little kids on Christmas to know what their kids were doing and experiencing.  When students and parents participate alike, they share the experience and make more meaningful connections.  The interest is there.  It is also there for subject matter interactions.  Another parent was reading student and teacher comments and learning about the material to participate in together time with their own child and their homework.

Another great way to bring parents into the picture is Chris Wejr’s Friday 5.  I mentioned it in a previous entry but every time I tell someone about it, they think it is a great idea so here it is again.  The goal is to call the homes of five students each Friday to tell parents about good and positive things their child has done.  The secondary goal to this one is to contact the home of all your students.  Chris is an elementary school principal so that is possible of all the kids in his school.  As a secondary teacher of 1000 students, I just try to get to all my students that I teach.  The overall goal is to spread positivity and to communicate directly with the parents to promote them to be a support resource for the child learner.  The act of phoning home with good news rather than poor news opens the door to a new relationship and participation in education.  It is time consuming but well worth it.  Whatever chance that presents itself, or that you can create, to get parents involved is simply worth gold.

When all stakeholders are invited to participate and do so, education is active and owned.  If it isn’t, it is passive and those involved simply tag along and miss experience it, but miss out on all the richness that is just waiting to be grasped.

Some ways I and my PLN have promoted Participation in Education:

a. Friday 5 (@chriswejr)

b. Overhead pens that students can contribute to the class AT ANY TIME.

c. Seating class list – kids sit with someone different every day to interact and communicate.  I think it is absurd that kids can be in the same class day after day and not know the names of their classmates.

d. Students start off each course expressing their expectations on their teacher. (@whatedsaid)

e. Students start off each course expressing their expectations on themselves.

f. Blogs that parents can subscribe to and leave a comment.  I have moved to these because webpages are not interactive this way.

g. Window markers – groups write directly on table adding points, then rotate in groups to all the tables adding more points, then kids can take pictures of the webs/notes/material with their mobile phones to act as their notes.

h. Peer tutoring sessions within the classroom, tutor and in-need-of-help role play

i. HOMEwork – students do work outside of school/at home – homework is for students to use information learned in school and apply it to their lives outside of school…hopefully for their parents or other support resources to see

j.  students sit in pairs or groups, not isolated in rows

k. http://www.twiducate.com, blogs, twitter – borderless communication

l. cue cards matching – (science) red cards have positive ions and blue cards have negative ions and kids get up and interact,  matching up with each other and communicating

m….. there are so many!  please feel free to leave a comment of a way you get your students and parents to be participants in education.

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