The teacher stands at the front of the biology class reviewing a lesson, whiteboard behind her.
She poses a question, and invites a student to write the answer on the board.
“Does anyone disagree?” she asks, before moving to another question about whether a substance is an acid or base.
“Who would like to tell me that?”
L-R, Clay Morris, Haleigh Adkins and Andrew Delancy work on a tabletop analysis of a text – the
four sections of the central paper represent the different roles each student has in the exercise.
The teacher occasionally consults notes, but otherwise smoothly conducts the exercise for the responsive class. The folds of her white lab coat more than engulf her, probably because as a sophomore in this East Carter High School AP biology class, she doesn’t quite fill it out as an adult would.
Students in this class are leading much of the learning, with the real teacher, Sheri J. Bonzo, gradually releasing responsibility to them. The program was created by Bonzo, who calls it I- LEAD. It is not related to another program with that name, written in a different style.
“It’s an effective strategy for creating a culture of shared ownership among the kids and the teacher,” East Carter High School Principal Kelley Moore said.
The unique program was recognized as a best practice recently by the Kentucky Department of Education. East Carter High, a turnaround success, is itself a hub school and the entire district’s professional learning through lesson study program also was recognized as a best practice.
In East Carter High’s I-LEAD classroom, students:
• Lead targets and bell ringers (which is what the student described above was doing).
• Lead PACE, which stands for purpose of the day’s lesson, how each student will be accountable for their learning, the congruency to Kentucky’s academic standards and eyes on text – the day’s required reading.
• Lead classroom discussions in which high-level questions are asked and answered.
• Lead table group activities.
• Facilitate labs and other activities.
• Review critical vocabulary and connect lessons to the real world.
• Monitor the progress of themselves and their peers.
Students rotate roles, from leader to tech support to sharing different tasks when working in the table group activities. Bonzo still facilitates, providing guidance, interjecting additional information or asking follow-up questions. “Throughout the year, however, they get better and better at it,” she said. “I interject less and less as the year progresses.”
The strategies she incorporates include those that are part of the districtwide literacy initiative, “but you can use any strategy and make it into an I-LEAD classroom,” she said. “The most important thing is every student has a role in the classroom. And they’re very specific roles, so every student is engaged at some point.”
The idea, she said, “began from a desire to have students to be empowered and engaged the time I have them.”