Carter County I-LEAD

Carter County I-LEAD

Role reversal LEADs to more student involvement, real-world skills
Kentucky School Advocate
December 2017
By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff writer
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 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.”
L-R, Jade Bloemer, who led the class in an opening activity, checks to see whether Madison Holbrook and Dani Bryant have any questions.
Good reviews
School board Chairman Bryan Greenhill’s son, Shawn, a sophomore, is currently in an I-LEAD biology class. He said his son has been assigned to walk around the classroom and give one-on-one help to other students. 

“He seems to enjoy the interactions he gets,” Greenhill said. “And where each of them takes turns doing that, they all feel comfortable enough with each other that when their peers need help, they don’t care to step up and really give advice to them or give them guidance, go that little extra with them. Even though they’re competitive, they want to see everyone succeed as well.”

Caroline Young, a junior who took AP biology last year, said the class with its I-LEAD format “opens your mind and we can just relate to each other a lot better. Being able to get up there and teach the class, with the help of Ms. Bonzo, it makes us stronger leaders and gives us skills that we’re always going to need in life.”
L-R, Jade Bloemer, who led the class in an opening activity, checks
to see whether Madison Holbrook and Dani Bryant have any questions.

Abigail Akers, who was in the same class last year, said she thinks students learned more than they would have in a regular classroom. “The I-LEAD gets you more involved in the class.”

This is only the second full year for using I-LEAD, but Bonzo said college students who had the class last year have told her that they felt comfortable in making presentations in their college classes because of I-LEAD.

Moore said the collaboration, teamwork and leadership aspects of the method “are very much soft skills for career and college beyond high school.”

Bonzo said her program can be used at any level and with any subject. “It’s not just high school and it’s not content-bound,” she said. It may not be for every teacher, or that a teacher would want to use it every day, she added. Of the six classes she teaches, she uses I-LEAD in five of them, all biology courses. 

Moore said while Bonzo’s program is her own unique invention, other teachers in her school “do similar things already.” 

But she said she would like to see other classrooms model Bonzo’s method. “I think the setup with the kids having ownership during the class, taking on roles at various parts of the lesson is just a good engagement strategy for instruction,” she said.
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