That is exactly what English teachers Kristen Guth and Jackie Randall discovered when they gave up control and used literature circles to let students lead their own learning in a month-long unit reading memoirs. They created conditions for students to enjoy success in driving their own learning and the results exceeded their expectations! Kristen and Jackie noticed increased student engagement and motivation, as well as deeper understanding and insight in analysis. After the month was over, it was hard for them––and their students––to go back to the traditional teacher-controlled instruction!
Prior to the start of the unit, Kristen and Jackie took took time––very intentionally–– to create conditions for their students to connect with their peers and support one another in meaningful learning. They established and clearly communicated the purpose of the unit, the learning goals, the assessments, both formative and summative, and the process the students would engage in each day. All students would work on the same literacy skills, but they would have choice in their groups and the books they would read. Students would rotate leadership roles throughout the course of the unit.
Kristen and Jackie generously gave their time on Institute Day, and again on a recent Teaming on Tuesday, to share their work with their peers. Participants Matt Snow and Kim Miklusak also shared a variation of literature circles that they used in their classes with similar success. While their examples are from English classes, they all agreed that the process could be easily replicated in any discipline that involve reading and analysis of text. Quinn Loch concurred, sharing possibilities to use the same process in science to engage students in inquiry labs.
Check out Kristen and Jackie's presentation below to learn more about how they created the conditions for student success, and to see the feedback from students.
Check out this video clip below for insight on how the teachers gave feedback to students and their reflections on giving up control.
Check out this video clip to hear some "Aha" moments the teachers had and what they learned from their students!