Third grade students have been working particularly hard on recorder skills. Students earn a 'belt' when they achieve a significant milestone in their skill development. Today I did a quick skill check and about half of the class earned a belt. But what to do about the rest of the class??? Many of them were close but not close enough....
On a hunch I threw my lesson plan to the wind and told each newly-belted student to find a friend and help them to work on what they need to earn the next belt. My room came alive! Students needing some individual attention were thrilled to have the chance to try again and figure it out with a 'peer-teacher,' while the 'peer-teachers' kicked into highly motivated and super-positive teaching mode! I was free to circulate around the room and offer support and guidance as needed. Within fifteen minutes the whole class was caught up. Utilizing peer-to-peer teaching I was able to get everyone in the class what they needed to be successful, which often is some one-on-one attention, in a very short amount of time.
But that's not the only thing that happened....
- I heard things from the 'students' such as "I really liked working with ____." It helped a lot to talk to __ about what I could change to make a better sound." "I get it now!"
- My 'students' got a fresh infusion of confidence and motivation from working with their peers.
- My 'peer-teachers' had to engage in higher order thinking skills because they suddenly had to problem-solve on the spot. Some of them came back to me to explain the problem they had identified in their 'student' and to talk through ways to fix it and then take it back to their 'student.' There was some deep-learning happening for the 'peer-teachers.'
- My 'peer-teachers' rallied behind their 'students' and didn't give up. And when their students went to try out they encouraged them along and pumped them up! The room was full of positive, collaborative and joyful energy.