Despite the fact that students may all share the same amount of previous educational years or even have all come from the same 1st grade group at the same school, my students enter 2nd grade with varying strengths and weaknesses, home support, and language backgrounds. Especially in my 90-10 dual immersion school, one of my students' greatest assets are their fellow classmates.
Coming from a homeschooling background myself, I can certainly understand that getting lots of same age peers together for hours on end each day doesn't always result in the best outcomes and habits and that students can learn perfectly well independently. However, there can be power in the positive influences of peers on one another when it comes to learning.
At the time of my action research, I was teaching 2nd graders, many of whom had not been in the same classroom together, ever. I began teaching virtually via Zoom, and only three months into the school year did we switch to part-time in-person learning. Second graders are often fairly quiet at the beginning of the school year and getting them to participate and verbalize via a new technological platform in front of a new grouping of students, was a challenge. These students needed to feel that they were in a safe environment to make mistakes. They needed to be seen and heard and not feel that they were one more video square on gallery view that no one was paying attention to.
In a group setting, asking for help was difficult for my students. Lessons had to move quickly because of reduced instructional time and teachers weren't given time to hold office hours or small group intervention. How would students get past all the little road blocks in the way of their learning? On top of this, most primary aged students don't take notes on technological or academic skills they need help with in order to turn in assignments. When there are too many barriers to getting work done, many students just quietly give up, and the teacher is left playing a guessing game as to why things aren't working. How would I put the pieces together and get the detailed help to each different student when 5 hours of my day were spent on direct instruction for different student cohorts, and meetings and lesson preparation played tug-a-war with the left over time? Even when I did find precious time to reach out to individuals, trouble shooting through the screen to find the actual barrier took quite a lot of time.
My students are intelligent and capable. They are quick learners. They are growing up in a very fast paced world. And if you think that figuring out how to navigate multiple online learning platforms is too much for them, you should listen to them talk about the research they've done on beating video games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Among Us..... Students learn exponentially more when their motivation is intrinsic. Why are these video games so popular? Yes, they are very engaging, but also, the whole kid world is talking about them and sharing tips of how to succeed in them. I wanted students' motivations for learning academic skills to shift from being something I wanted them to do, to being something they were inspired to do by their peers.
By carefully structuring student pairs and giving them time to work together, students would be able to share their own discoveries with each other. This also freed up my time to observe students working. This is a HUGE learning tool for teachers that I think is not emphasized enough in the world of education. By just watching students work and interact, the teacher gets a glimpse into student understandings that's not available in a whole class instructional setting. Instruction can then be tailored better to fit students' needs and time isn't lost in explaining things that students already know or have subsequently taught each other during peer-teaching time.
Learners exist in a variety of social and values-based contexts. These can interact to create a larger context that educators need to understand for optimal design of instruction and learning. For more information check out this SITE Model description with case study examples.
Designing the Logo
When I set out to design my logo in my final semester of the masters program, I knew I wanted some element that showed that together, humans can accomplish more. I like the round and cloud-like appearance of thought bubbles and as I thought more about it, I wanted them to overlap, showing a new color in the center where the bubbles overlap. This overlapping section represents the shared experience and knowledge of both peers when they interact. Sometimes, just by verbalizing something, new ideas take shape. Thus, the lightbulb is lit up in the center of the thought bubble Venn diagram. Take a look at my initial sketches and the final product below.