Building Community with a Student of the Week

When I was teaching pre-service and visiting teacher candidates at their practicums, I had many opportunities to see the different ways teachers create community in their classrooms.  One fourth-grade classroom teacher (I am sorry, I don’t remember the classroom teacher’s name) assigned a table in her room for a student to set up a display about his or herself.  This display immediately caught my attention because the student, whose turn it was to share, had brought in a variety of Montreal Canadian artifacts. Since I am a Habitant fan, I immediately wanted to meet this student and talk with him about the artifacts he brought to school.  The student was so pleased to talk to me about how he and his family came to be Hab fans.   The other students in the class were quick to fill in pieces of information the student didn’t share.  This told told me that his classmates practiced attentive listening and mutual respect when the artifacts were presented. I left that classroom knowing that when I returned to teaching elementary students I would do something similar.

Well, I finally introduced the idea of a “Student of the Week” when we returned to school in January.  I asked my student teacher to launch the project by sharing personal artifacts before we broke for the holidays so that when we returned, the first student would be ready to go.

Basically, each week a student prepares an oral presentation and display about them self to share with the class.  I tell the students that by sharing this information we learn more about each other and we will have a greater appreciation of how each member of our class is unique and special.  

Below you will find the learning goal and success criteria for this activity.

 Learning Goal: 

As Student of the Week, I will learn how to:

  • Organize my ideas and present information in a logical sequence;
  • Communicate in a clear way using good volume, speed and eye contact.

Success Criteria:

I know I successfully presented myself as the Student of the Week if:

  • I included information about my past, present and future;
  • I used visuals such as photographs, magazine or Internet pictures;
  • I included objects such as favourite toys, lucky charms or other artifacts;
  • I looked at the audience when I presented;
  • I spoke in a loud and clear voice.

My students LOVE our Student of the Week presentations.  Each week, after a student has done their formal presentation, the presenter pulls a new name from our Name Jar.  The name drawn will have one week to prepare their presentation and display.  I can’t believe how excited the students get when someone’s name is read from the jar.  You would think they one an iPad or somethingJ

I am so pleased with the quality of the presentations each student prepares, but I am equally pleased with the quality of the feedback the students receive from their peers.  Not only do they ask thoughtful and caring questions to find out more about the individual, they also point out which success criteria the student has included and which success criteria they can build upon.  What is really cool is that I didn’t ask the students to provide the feedback, they did it automatically, which tells me that peer feedback is part of the culture of our classroom (I guess I did something right!).

After the presentation and Q and A time I ask some reflection questions such as:

  • What did we learn about <student’s name> that we didn’t know before?
  • What are some of the things you have in common with <student’s name>?
  • How does this activity help our classroom community?

I am sorry I didn’t start this activity at the beginning of the year.  With a never ending list of things to do, I kept skipping over this activity. In hindsight, it didn’t take long to set up.  I basically purchased a display board and stick on letters.  I narrowed down our learning goal and success criteria and put it on a handout for students to take home.   Now Student of the Week is in the students’ hands!  So far, I haven’t had a student forget they were the next Student of the Week.  Each week the Student of the Week has come ready to set up their display and prepared to give their oral presentation to our class.  I think this activity is a keeper!

 

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The Author

Tina.Ginglo

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