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Students Teach the Class

 
During the last school year, I taught two self-contained Orton-Gillingham Reading classes for 9th-graders with disabilities, many of whom were also English Language Learners. These students were selected for this program because baseline assessments indicated that they were reading at a third or fourth grade level and they had struggled on ELA exams in recent years. It was my job to improve the students’ reading levels so they could be successful in their core academic subjects.
 
This task became much more challenging halfway through the year-long program when several new students were enrolled in my classes. I had already taught half of the curriculum and was planning to progress to new content, but that was no longer an option. Like any subject, students in a reading program must learn the basics before they can understand advanced work.  I was faced with a dilemma: re-teach my early lessons and possibly bore the original students, or start with the advanced content and confuse the new students.  Both options had major drawbacks so I settled on a new plan. I decided to let my original students teach the early material to their new classmates. My rationale? The original students would have an opportunity to be engaged and demonstrate their mastery of the content while the new students would get the instruction they needed in a unique and exciting way.  
 
When I first introduced this idea to my original students a few weeks prior to the new students’ arrival, they thought I was joking. Once they realized that this was going to count as a project grade, they were on board.  
 
Now, the challenge was to show them how to write and deliver full workshop-style lessons featuring:
  1. An aim
  2. Guided notes
  3. A mini-lesson including modeling
  4. An assessment activity for students to complete in pairs or groups
  5. A homework activity that the student teacher was responsible for grading
 
To model what they had to do, I created a lesson plan template and completed it as if I was a student. I then delivered my lesson to the class. I was a teacher pretending to be a student pretending to be a teacher. My students got a kick out of watching me teach a lesson as a shy and unsure 14-year-old. Once the laughter at my expense died down, they were able to use my modeling as a guide to complete their lessons and create corresponding handouts (guided notes, assessment activity and, in some cases, a homework assignment).
 
When they taught their lessons, which took about 30 minutes each, student teachers referred to themselves by their last names, had to manage classroom behavior, answered questions from the new students, and circulated during the assessment activity to provide one-on-one support. These students were really teaching.
 
Below you will find a sampling of student work. First, take a look at a lesson plan by Rodney*:
 
 
 
Here are the guided notes and assessment activity handouts Rodney created for his classmates:
 
 
 
Raymond received a grade for his work based on the rubric below. Get your own copy of the rubric here
 
 

After Rodney taught the class, he completed a self-reflection about his performance and the project as a whole. Take a look…

*Students names have been changed.