When it comes to early years education, some favour a teacher-led, academically-focused approach while others believe in using a more child-centric, developmental style. As we discussed in our previous blog, learning is rarely as binary as purely student-led or teacher-led instruction. Perhaps the best pedagogical approach is a blend of the two: student-centred whilst still teacher-led.
So, how can you plan a teacher-led instruction lesson whilst ensuring it remains student-centred? Here are three simple, easy-to-implement ideas to diversify your lesson format:
Begin the day with a starter activity
To break up the standard format of your lessons, why not forego taking the register immediately and introduce a starter activity when your pupils arrive, instead?
A starter activity could begin as soon as the class sits down. For example, have a subject-specific task, question or instruction visible on your front-of-class display as they enter the room. To get pupils collaborating, stay silent and point to the display for them to work out how to get started. Consider giving written instructions like ‘form groups, discuss a topic, assign roles’ etc.
This student-centred format invites your class to interact with the subject matter from the moment they walk in, as well as helping them develop key soft skills. Alternatively, if you’re asking your students to work in groups, ask one member of each group to get directions from you. Then, have them explain the activity to the rest of their group.
Task pupils with demonstrations
If you are teaching a mixed-ability class, rather than explaining how to do an activity yourself, you could ask one (or a few) of your pupils to demonstrate to the rest of the group, instead.
In a practical lesson like art or science, you could divide your class into different activities. Then, ask more experienced pupils to demonstrate the activity to the rest of their group before they all get started. This keeps all pupils engaged, rather than risk losing the high-performing pupils’ attention while explaining to the others.
During an auditory lesson like music, for example, you could ask a pupil to play two styles of music and ask the rest of the class to identify and discuss the differences. This engages pupils of all abilities, as well as providing a platform for dialogue, rather than pure teacher-led instruction.
Create a ‘teacher for a week’ schedule
Finally, consider ways your pupils can share knowledge on a subject without you instructing them on it, first.
For example, assign either individuals or pairs of pupils a specific week to be the teacher and task them with researching a topic that works within your curriculum. For 15 minutes a day, those pupils have the opportunity to share facts and information, and craft their own activities for the rest of the class to follow. To keep the lessons on track, teachers can be on hand as a ‘mentor’ to guide the sessions to an appropriate conclusion and learning outcome. Offer to help pupils optimise the available teaching tools like the interactive front-of-class display, or other resources in your classroom.
It takes only a few small tweaks to your lesson format to incorporate a more student-centred approach to your teacher-led instruction. It requires neither an entire overhaul of your pedagogical approach, nor a huge amount of resources to put an element of discovery into your traditional lessons. That way, you could better serve all the abilities in your class, engage more types of learners in your approach, and help develop the use of soft skills in your classroom.