Friday, January 15, 2010

My Reign Is Over

Yesterday, Shelly Terrell challenged teachers with the following statement as part of her 30 Days, 30 Goals challenge. She said, "Allow your students to have complete control over one class period. Have them choose the material and the way they want to present the material. Just trust them and see what they create." Before I read Shelly's post, I had a lesson plan ready for each of my classes today. The lesson plans, for the most part, were completely the opposite idea of what Shelly is trying to get across. They were teacher centered with little interaction and student ownership. So, I decided to trash those lesson plans. The students walked into class today and I gave them complete reign over the lesson. Here is what happened.

I teach two math classes that have a combined 35 students. I split the class into small groups and gave them approximately 5 minutes to come up with a proposal for today's classroom activity. Most of the groups came up with some type of game that reviewed previous material we have covered. Each class voted on which game they wanted to play and we then spent the rest of the class period playing that game. At the end of the period, I gave them a five question evaluation of the class. Here are some of their responses on the evaluation.

-34 out of 35 students said they would like to do the same activity again.
-14 out of 35 students used the word 'fun' when asked to finish the statement, "I liked class today because..."
-The two most common suggestions for integrating technology into lessons were using YouTube and using clickers (individual response cards)
-When asked how they could make the activity better, 2 students responded with...

-I would like more time to solve problems
-We moved too fast for me to understand some of the problems
-When asked why they liked class today, some common responses included...
-We had a choice
-We didn't just sit in our desks the whole class
-It was fun and not "old-schooled"
-It was a break from homework and "regular stuff"
-It was more fun than just staring at the SMART Board
-When asked what other ideas they had for class activities, some students said...
-Give us more problems to work on in a group
-Give us more challenge problems
-Let's go outside to play a game. We can get exercise and learn at the same time

Today was off the cuff, outside the box, and completely random for me. An observer sitting in the classroom today would not describe these two classes as perfect. However, this imperfect lesson helped me grow today as an educator. (See my previous post for a discussion about perfect lessons.) I have grown because I learned about a few games that students like to play. I also have grown because I have feedback from the students that lets me know what interests them and what might challenge them. Most importantly, I have grown because my students experienced some new opportunities and ownership over a lesson. My reign is ending. The students are taking over.


  1. I'm enjoying your reflections! I think this should be a must read for all educators. I may have encouraged the idea, but you actually show the way to do this structurally. Educators new to this concept need guidance and tips. Moreover, I love how you incorporated feedback in the lesson. If we want to be effective then change isn't enough. We must seek feedback to ensure the change was implemented well. In your case, it was! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Awesome! I find when I have done something similar that the younger students are move innovative; the older students "imitate" me more. What fun you and your students had!
    Tomorrow I will do this with one of my classes that needs to jump out of its complacency!

  4. Great read. Okay, So what is the next step? Review games are one thing but what about new content.
    2footgiraffe twitter

  5. Wow you are very brave. I don't think it is very practical to have an entire class taught like this, but it would be interesting to have a section of each day devoted to "student rule". I work at Full Sail University and we have 4 hour lectures each day. Perhaps we can try this for an hour each time. Hmmm...

  6. Congratulations on your success with trying something new and revolutionary in your classroom! What about having one class period like this each day? Or 2 or three days each week? They know about it in advance and can start thinking of good ideas...