Students Supporting Learning

Our district uses the Danielson rubric for teaching. I am always impressed with the way teachers engage students. What always is the most impressive practice is how teachers create a safe learning environment for students. When this happens, there is learning and excitement and FUN!

Let’s take a look at what great teachers do to foster student supported learning in the classroom…

Students themselves make a substantive contribution to the effective functioning of the class by assisting with classroom procedures, ensuring effective use of physical space, and supporting the learning of classmates.

I have observed this occur in classroom over and over again in a multitude of effective ways. Seek student feedback when creating classroom procedures.  One of our schools was adjusting to a group of students who came to our school from another location in the county. Our school has a clear set of expectations and goals however these students were having some trouble adjusting to the established climate. The skilled Principal created two new programs.

New Student Orientation…

This was never necessary in our school before but you know the saying…”necessity is the mother of invention.” New students met with important people in the school such as the Principal, counselor, nurse, cafeteria manager, media specialist, and the playground/cafeteria aide. The orientation was provided in a comfortable space. In this case it was the library at tables where students and adults could interact with each other. Pizza was also included. Presenting expectations in a non-confrontational way was palatable to the new students and it worked marvelously!

Ask Me Why VIP….

When students were struggling to adhere to classroom expectations, a skilled teacher devised the Ask Me Why VIP program. Students wore “Ask Me Why VIP” badges and were important liaisons between the teacher and students. After the teacher provided instruction, the rest of the class asked the “Ask Me Why VIP” students questions. They also asked the VIP’s to clarify statements the teacher made and they asked their opinion. The engagement with both content and fellow students helped to anchor the students into the learning cycle and support student learning. It kept the VIP’s focussed on the content because they knew being a VIP was an important role and that their classmates would be seeking their advice, feedback, or opinion on something content-related.

Supporting the learning of classmates contributes to overall success in the classroom including the teachers. If teachers and administrators can continue to find skillful ways to have students support one another’s learning, the environment remains trusting and safe. Students will engage with one another, the teacher, and the content for rich, authentic learning experiences. As an adult learner, don’t you feel better about contributing knowing your ideas are being heard, respected and implemented by your colleagues? Try engaging in these strategies in your workplace or classroom.

~ Karen Wood



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Tonight I learned how important it is to stand up for what you believe in – no matter what.  My daughter’s cheer team made it to Nationals.  This is a very exciting accomplishment for all the girls on the team as well as parents and coaches since this is our first time making it this far.  Needless to say, emotions are high and everyone wants to perform their best.

Tonight when I was outside with parents and girls, one of the coaches approached my daughter and criticized her performance today.  My daughter did not talk back.  I could see she was sad.  Her lip began to tremble and her eyes welled with tears.  As a mom, seeing my nine year old ready to cry in front of her coach, parents, and other girls on the team was heart-wrenching.  But with pride, she kept her stiff upper lip.

It was another mother who spoke up (first) on my daughter’s behalf.  She was concerned that the coach was reprimanding a girl on the team in front of so many people.  I was grateful that she started the conversation, mostly because I couldn’t trust myself to speak.  “Mama bear” was getting angry.  I did defend my daughter and told the coach that speaking to my daughter or anyone’s daughter in that way was inappropriate, mean, and disrespectful.

Don’t get me wrong.  We respect coaches and anyone of authority in my family.  I told my daughter, who is worried about their final performance tomorrow, that she should be respectful and tolerate the coaches statements and observations (even if she “calls my daughter out”) again.  Other parents left to report the conflict to the head coach and the head coach paid us a very welcome (and necessary visit).  My daughter and I had a few tears and a really good discussion about respect and kindness.  (Deep breaths were necessary too – lots of them!)

The whole situation reminded me of this quote:

Karen Wood Superintendent

I wish more people would consider this quote in MANY circumstances. This isn’t just about my daughter and a coach who lacked respect for her cheerleaders. This is about so many people who have the ability to nurture, guide, coach, teach, and inspire. Isn’t that what we should all be striving for? To inspire?

I know that even through a challenging situation, I will do my best to cultivate the best environment for the flowers in my charge….wherever that might be.