George Lucas Educational Foundation
Schools That Work
Collaborative Learning

Developing Independent Learners: Guiding Students to Be More Resourceful

When you empower students to be classroom experts, they learn to become resources for each other.
This is part of our Schools That Work series, which features key practices from Birmingham Covington School.
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Student: We saw a bunch of frost on everything, so this is a picture of the bench.

Jordy: You've got your depth of field right in the middle there. How did you get it to do that?

Student: This playlist on YouTube gave us all these good ideas.

Jessica: Because our kids can discover the vast amount of resources that they have access to, kids are then able to seek out answers, rather than just ask for them.

Jordy: You get to try and figure it out by yourself today.

Student: Oh yeah.

Mark: When you get kids collaborating together, they become more resourceful. They see themselves as experts, and the teacher can oftentimes not guide them to the answer, but to another resource.

Jessica: Look around, people. These are your friends that might need your help today.

Kids need to learn teamwork based skills, because every other class and every other subject that they have, third through eighth grade, requires them to work in different sized groups, accomplishing different tasks. So the learning goal today was, how do I solve problems using the people around me as a resource?

Who has had a problem so far? Sean?

Student: So I got a picture and then everything just disappeared.

Jessica: Let's take a look at this picture problem. Do you guys want to help me out?

Students: Yeah.

Jessica: All right.

When we get to a certain point in a project, there are so many people that have the same type of problem.

Who is somebody that is an expert?

I try and remember who has had similar problems and has gone on to successfully solve them.

Student: First you go on the internet. Then you click view image.

Jessica: Yeah, you got it.

Eloise: You get to help people, and they'll help you. Then you learn more and make school easier.

You right click it.

Ooh, we got it.

Another strategy that I use when kids are having problems or need assistance--

What's your question?

Instead of just having students raise their hand, I have a clothespin system that I call the help desk.

We accidentally wrote twenty B's.

Jessica: Oh man.

The clip indicates that I'm having a problem with something, and I need somebody's help with it.

Student: Our screen is frozen.

Eloise: I'm good at computers, so people sometimes ask me to help them.

Probably turn it off and turn it on again.

Jessica: So at a certain point, I say, I'm now releasing anybody that's not actively working to go and circulate and help with some of these clips as well. They're psyched to be in that capacity.

Eloise: Is it the earth?

Sometimes I discover something that I didn't know I could do.

Jessica: All right, time to celebrate.

At the end of class, we build each other up with celebrations.

I want you to celebrate if somebody was helping you today.

It's just a quick thing that gets everybody fired up and really thinking, well, what did this person do for me?

Student: Sophia helped me do, like the pictures.

Jessica: Sophia, do you hear that?

Sophia: Yeah.

Jessica: How would you like to be celebrated?

I have a menu on my wall of celebrations.

All: [singing] Ah, ah, ah, ah, you're really cool, you're really cool.

Jessica: So we create this environment where kids have an excitement and a fire for finding the right resource to solve the problem.

You should feel really good about what happened today.

Student: Thank you, Miss Heckman.

Jordy: In third, fourth grade, one of the biggest goals is learning to solve your own problems. And so I get kids that already have some of that when they come to me.

Yeah, you need to quit for now.

In life, we have to be able to teach ourselves.

You need to make a new page.

In my class, students come up with a project idea.

Student: My project is learning Turkish.

Student: I'm learning how to play the ukulele.

Student: I want to teach myself how to get better looking photos.

Jordy: Students look at a template that has a series of questions that help them plan what they want to do. What do they expect to learn from this project? What steps are they going to take? Who or what can they go to when they get stuck?

Let's jump down to resources. The people, the websites, any books you used.

I'm not going to accept a proposal where you don't have a resource to go to if you get stuck, whether it's an online forum, a YouTube channel.

Teacher: All right, Zoe, what's up?

Jordy: Another teacher, a parent at home.

Teacher: So you're going to make your own acid.

Zoe: Yes.

Teacher: That's the same stuff that's in your stomach.

Zoe: We also learn managing your time and kind of guiding yourself without having as much, like people telling you what to do.

Sodium chloride and--

Jordy: When you are in high school, when you're in college, when you're in the workforce, there are going to be a set of projects that are not well defined.

Zoe: Even though you're learning hard stuff--

Jordy: Students are going to hit road bumps along the way. Can they get beyond those and produce what they want to produce?

Mark: Because our students are more resourceful, they have more intrinsic motivation within the learning process, and ultimately are learning to be learners.

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