Teacher as Guide on the Side
With regard to culturally relevant teaching......
Many students are very verbal and kinesthetic learners. In their homes, they are used to highly active, passionate, high energy kinds of communication. When they come to school, and the classroom communication is didactic and unemotional, they become bored and disinterested. Teachers can capitalize on this by literally moving out of the way and letting the students go for it! After students have spent time learning the information and concepts, teachers can find out who knows what by letting students engage in high energy discussions that can tell the teacher a tremendous amount about what the students know.
Watch the way the teacher in this video, has her students engage actively, in the tasks of discussion and critique of each other's performance. The teacher stays out of the discussion! Students share perspectives and demonstrate their knowledge. They analyze and synthesize what they have read and learned on the topic. They also learn to take constructive criticism from their peers. All students are expected to participate. The circle seating better ensures that students feel equal and equally responsible for the task, vs classrooms where some students choose to sit in the back of the room with the intention of not participating. The teacher walks around with a notepad, assessing contributions and level of understanding for each student. This informs the starting point for the next phase of the lesson. She will use this information to ensure that each child is truly ready to move on.
Teaching as the 'guide on the side', rather than the 'sage on the stage' takes a little practice and patience. We have to trust that our students can handle the task. We have to teach ourselves to handle the task as well!. The teacher and the students are in a somewhat uncomfortable position at first. After a few more times, however, each will demonstrate amazing confidence! Initially, students will turn to us for help, asking us for reassurance. We have to remain silent and just do the job of assessment---watching each child, listening to each child, discerning what he/she knows well or not so well. This is an extremely powerful teaching method; for we come to know exactly what we need to teach and reteach. Once students have been able to voice their understandings of the concepts we have taught, we know what they know, and this is what we need in order to design the next effective lesson plan.