Think of methods you use that might be considered old-school — lecture, worksheets, text activities, and traditional homework, to name a few. Now, consider how you might replace any or all of these, in order to create a vibrant, student-centered learning environment.
Reimagine your classroom’s design — Eliminate rows of desks; put them in pods of three or four. Bring in a few beanbag chairs or an old sofa and maybe a plant. Give your room some life, turning it into a beautiful, comfortable place that students yearn to visit.
Replace lecture with discovery — The next time you plan direct instruction, consider how you might help your students discover the information on their own. This is especially easy, if students have mobile devices and Internet access. Encourage them to explore. One of my favorite language arts assignments was to write literary terms on a white board and give my students a two-word instruction: “Learn these.” I explain this in more detail in my book, The 5-Minute Teacher.
Replace worksheets and workbooks with digital learning tools — Instead of repeating the same math problem 20 times, have students solve a problem, snap a picture of it, and share it on Instagram or Twitter. Imagine the engagement you’ll get.
Replace most independent seat work with collaboration — In a world where STEM, STEAM, and maker movements are gaining traction, isn’t it time for teachers to encourage their students talk and to move?
Replace one-off activities with ongoing projects — The yearlong project is the perfect playground for failure, powerful conversations about learning, iteration and mastery learning. Create many opportunities for students to demonstrate learning, and let them choose how to do it. Over the course of a school year, you can integrate as many learning outcomes or standards as you wish into one or two projects. These lengthy student-centered projects make the prior four strategies so much easier to implement.
Most of these are very simple ways to create a student-centered classroom.
Why not give one a try today? Your students will love it, and I’m guessing you will, too.