|Older students helping the younger ones garden|
To increase student engagement, I say let the students take the lead. I have found that my students do their best work when they are put into a position of leadership. My students that are normally reluctant learners suddenly are engaged and willing to teach the skills that I’ve taught to them to younger students. I do not know exactly what comes over them, because normally my students can find a million reasons why they should not have to complete an assignment. However, when I tell them that I need them to complete an assignment so we can help the younger students learn a skill all the complaints go out the window.
It is almost magical how my students will collaborate and think of the best way to instruct the younger students. I do not know if they realize it, but these opportunities to teach younger students are my opportunity to assess their level of understanding. If they really have a strong understanding of a concept then they will be able to identify challenges and plan for them. Giving my students a rubric outlining what I expect them to accomplish and a time schedule, also helps them manage the work. They are able to translate the high level academic terms into phases that make sense to younger students. Having the ability to code switch like this really helps deepen my students' connection to the content. Making connections and developing deeper understanding of the content is an essential component in the educational shift.