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Let the Students Teach!

Mater artium necessitas! [ Necessity the mother of skills (or invention, as we like to say)]

Such wisdom is never more true than in the classroom.  In this post I’d like to share one of my most effective (and fun) lesson plans that was invented in a moment when I was all out of gas and in need of some real help.

I’ll never forget that day.  I was sick.  Not sick enough to call in and stay home, but sick with the infamous Austin allergies.  I was completely out of gas and feeling awful.  My lesson plan for the day called for a review of some sentences the students were to translate the day before.

This review is a group exercise I often lead in class.  Everyone gets out their red pens.  I model sentences on the board, walk them through the translation by asking a question-answer flow series of questions.

What is the verb? parse it.  What is the subject?  parse it.  Any adjectives? Do they agree? Why? et cetera.

I have found this review extremely helpful.  Chances are students will not take the time to read through my red marks and notes to consider how they have erred.  If we walk through this together, however, they are made to think through their mistakes, why they are wrong, and how to improve next time.

This activity activity is valuable and I really didn’ t want to skip it, but I really didn’t feel like teaching.  As class began the thought occured to me, “I’ll have the students teach class for me!”  It has since become a game of ludere magister. I select one student to go to the board and act as the teacher.  He writes the sentence on the board and leads his classmates through the types of questions I would.  If someone suspects an error has been made, that person can politely raise his hand to make an objection and offer a solution.  I sit at my desk to monitor the scene and offer guidance when needed.  Then the magister picks another classmate to teach through the review of the next sentence.  ( nota bene: I usually ask the boys to pick a girl, and the girls to pick a boy to keep the gender balance level.)  Of course I use this strategy later in the year after they are all well groomed in the review.

This version of ludere magister has proven more effective than me leading the review myself.  The students eagerly engage.  They love having the opportunity to lead the class, especially with the large white board and a selection of colorful dry erase markers at their disposal.  They really like interacting with one another, discussing answers and translations.  It gives them a sense of empowerment and develops great confidence.  And I get a chance to relax just a little.  😉

One Response to “Let the Students Teach!”

  • Rachel Weight:

    I do this with my students as well. They LOVE the chance to lead the class, it really reinforces what they’ve learned, and has also lead to some pretty funny imitations of their teacher! 🙂

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