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Using Student Tutorials to Teach Poetry or Anything Else

Students research, then script, then perform or record their poetry tutorials. 

They're confused at first, but after a little direction and purposefully not giving strict guidelines, they are on their way to develop a "lesson" on a specific poetic device or topic that can be shared in 5 minutes or less.

In addition to their tutorial, they will provide a written "cheat sheet" that helps viewers understand what they are supposed to take away from the lesson.

As teachers, we know that teaching content to someone else until they understand it shows an extremely high level of competency in that particular area. In terms of Bloom's Taxonomy, creation and synthesis weigh in at the top as the highest level of learning.

Rather than directly teach content to students, one way to empower them in their learning is offering them chances to be creative and teach each other content. This has a dual effect in that they aren't bored to tears listening to some topics that really can only be taught directly and they have the opportunity to share what they learn in ways we may have never thought of.

Having done projects like this in several classes, not just for poetry, but for grammar lessons and also for different electives in journalism, I know the power of putting students in the driver's seat rather than asking them to passively listen from the passenger side (which is what most of the current educational practices still ask them to do).

If we want students to become more self-directed, independent learners, we must start trusting them to do the heavy lifting.

Here are some of the standards/skills that having students create tutorials address:

  • Students must research and fully understand their topics - citing information from multiple sources (and a variety of text complexities)

  • Students must then synthesize that information and figure out what way they should present it to help others - they must be innovative in their approach both to doing the learning and sharing the learning

  • Students must work together collaboratively to ensure unity of message in their groups

  • Students must work with technology to convey the information

  • Students must go through a writing process and revise before they make the tutorial

  • Students must choose precise, appropriate language that communicates concisely and clearly

  • Students must make sure that what they understand is presented in a way others will understand it.

  • Students will reflect on their learning experience

Here are some sample student tutorials:

Here are some sample student reflections about their learning against the standards:

All of these students experienced struggles throughout their learning process, but all of them produced amazing work and learning through the perseverance. It's truly a testament to project-based learning (PBL) and the power of doing versus just listening or reading.

As educators we need to be pushing students harder, compelling them to be the owners of their learning. No longer can a teacher just preach and hope to make a lasting impact.

So think about a topic in an area you teach that would lend itself to developing student-made tutorials and set kids loose. Then you could create a library of the tutorials on your class website that could be useful to many more students in the future.

How can you use student-made tutorials in your classes? Please share

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog, Work in Progress in October 2014

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