Students Engage Each Other

As part of their cumulative project, students in my Upper School (all 11th graders this year) US History class are responsible for researching the development of a particular area of US History and then teaching a class period on the topic.

This year I’ve been impressed by the way students who are teaching have gotten their classmates out of their seats and participating in learning activities. I think that this kind of learning, so prevalent in the lower grades, tends to fizzle out by high school. I confess it can be challenging for me to come up with these sorts of participatory activities without them feeling cheesy. I think what has worked so well in these classes is students are the ones who are leading the activities. They’re a great way to break up the lecture and discussion that have made of the other parts of the lessons the students have taught.

In addition, students have effectively used video in their lessons. They’ve chosen clips that are usually around 2-5 minutes long as a means for spurring discussion. Definitely a departure from some of my high school classes where a teacher would pop in a video that lasted the entire class period.

Here are just a couple examples of the students’ good work from last week.

One student taught on the evolution of household appliances. As an activity, she split students into two groups and challenged them to make cream cheese icing. One group hand an electric mixer, while the other had a whisk and a butter knife. I was put in the low-tech group and can testify to our frustration as we tried to make icing with what felt like woefully inadequate tools 🙂

As part of her lesson, the teacher also showed us the following video, which gave us a sense of the novelty of electric appliances in the early 20th century.

Another student taught on the history of personal transportation. He created a homemade carburetor pressure monitor (it probably has a more technical name than this). He then invited other students to demonstrate how it worked by blowing on the two tubes that would have been hooked to the sides of a carburetor in the car.

As part of his lesson we also discussed the future of cars. He showed us a video of a Tesla, a new generation of electric cars that mirrors and even surpasses the performance of many standard cars.


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