Students Teaching Students 101

IMG_0886While I have been reading these reflective blog postings, I have been thinking about whether ESL students at the high-intermediate level could also collaborate with each other in presenting a reading to the class.  I had tried it once before, and it seemed to me that it didn’t work very well.  On the other hand, I have observed an English 1A class, where students had to work in groups in breaking down a chapter to a book in order present it on the white board to the rest of the class.  Each student in the group had to help present the information, ESL or no ESL.  They all did well.  Why not help prepare my ESL students for this future English 1A class and have them do something similar?  And at the same time, they may benefit from this activity even if their English is only high-intermediate. I was thinking about what my ESL students could work on in groups.  The reading we were working on from the textbook was on Ecotourism, and in particular, the conflict between scientists and tourists on Antarctica.  Instead of a chapter, individual groups could work on a single paragraph of the reading in order to present it on the white board to the class.  Each paragraph contained detailed information.  The students could use key words, drawings, numbers, arrows, etc. in their presentations.  Each member of the group would also have to present some of the information to the rest of the class. First, groups comprised of four students worked together with the text and a single sheet of paper.  They could draft their white board presentation on the paper.  Students became quite taken with the task of choosing the most important information from the paragraph, and they had to discuss with each other to decide which information to include.  When finished with the first step, groups would then work at the white board, create the visuals, and divide up the material for presentation. IMG_0884 IMG_0883 The presentations were conducted as if we were in a museum, and we moved from white board to white board.  I was very impressed with the visuals, the way the students divided up the material for presentation, and the allowance for strong students to present more complex information and the weaker students to present “easier” information.  What most impressed me was the little time I had to spend with them on preparing and giving the presentations.  It was all student-centered and student-directed. Why has it taken me so long to bring into the classroom such a simple and successful activity?  Maybe I didn’t believe students at this level were capable of pulling it off?  Or perhaps it is the handing over of the reins to the class, which has prevented me from doing this more often.  Be that as it may, it seems to me that ESL students get much more out of activities like these than mere pair-work or regular class work, and I plan to do even more activities of this kind in the future.


One thought on “Students Teaching Students 101

  1. I really like this. To me it seems to be the difference between teaching epistemology and mere content delivery. Are we just dispensing knowledge to students or are we teaching them ways to know. I was talking to Carolyn Holcroft about this yesterday; she was explaining to me the distinction between telling students a series of biological facts and teaching students how to think as biologists. When we ask our students to teach other students, I think we’re doing the latter. We’re getting students to be the scholars in the room.


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