by Chanelle Cox, Kindergarten Teacher
In Kindergarten, the teachers are asking some important questions like, “How do we increase the quality and range of play and learning experiences without the teachers controlling or dominating?”, “How do we boost students’ feelings of competence and success in our learning spaces?”, and “How can we help students utilize and showcase their talents, while also building their sense of ownership and leadership skills?”. One way we are working towards these ideas is through student-led workshops.
A workshop on how to make string puppets.
At a recent team meeting, we opened up the floor to the students, asking them, “Does anyone want to share what they are working on during personal inquiry, or want some teammates to collaborate on a project?” A few brave students took the leap and shared what they were doing, and a number of students joined the student-leaders to collaborate.
A dance workshop
Over the next few days, we repeated the process at team meeting time. We began to use empowering language such as ‘workshop’ and ‘leader’, and a few more students began to take the opportunity to lead a workshop each day. Then, students started approaching us independently to volunteer to lead workshops. Before long, we had ten student workshops in the pipeline! We decided to slightly formalize the system in order to give students more control over scheduling, organizing and planning their workshop.
Since this initiative began, every student in kindergarten has volunteered for at least one workshop, and many different kinds of learning and play have been introduced. Students are confident and empowered, not only by the opportunities for authentic leadership but by the validation of their wide-ranging knowledge and skills. These workshops are helping students to increase both their autonomy and ownership throughout our space, which is having a significant and positive impact on our kindergarten culture. Already, it has provoked some great discussions about what teaching and leading are, what you do when someone doesn’t want to do it your way, and the difference between telling someone, showing someone, and doing it for them.
We are now expanding this workshop concept by encouraging students to identify areas in which they want to grow, which they follow-up on by asking for help from others in our community who could help them achieve that growth.
Simultaneously, we are working on building a bank of experts in a wide range of topics that our students can consult for help. This is also a chance for our students to identify their own talents and share them with other learners. We’ve even started a workshop collaboration with our friends in 2F!
Workshops with Gr. 2 students
Student-led workshops have been a significant step forward in our ongoing attempt to acknowledge and validate the skills, knowledge and learning journeys of everyone in our learning community, and in continuing to redefine the traditional roles of teachers and students.