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“How to Teach Us” and how students found real data

Sixth grade students at High Tech Middle North County write a book for teachers on how students best learn

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Read the book here

Check out the student survey here



Olivia (00:00):

But I think we should have a say in what we want. And I mean, it’s our education, right?

Brent (00:14):

That’s Olivia a sixth grader from the “How to Teach Us” project an eight week long project designed by math science teacher, Brooke Tobia, who teaches at High Tech Middle North County. At the heart of it, it’s students telling teachers how they best learn.

Brooke Tobia (00:30):

Our book is 100% student published and created, which is really awesome. One of my favorite parts is there’s different chapters. And each chapter is based on the characteristics that our students have identified with. So the students came up with a list of characteristics within our class and we had 60 students in our team. And so they said, this is the characteristic. Although I have many that I would most identify with. And so we have things like shy or social or hyperactive slow working, you know? And so they came up with these chapters.

Brent (01:07):

You’re going to hear from Olivia again, who self identified as an over-thinker

Olivia (01:12):

When coming into this, I kind of thought, cause we were just given like what the list of characteristics that we could choose from and what we identified with. And I was in there and in my one group, I thought it was a very like broad term. It is really about some, like being an over-thinker. And so I got to just learn more about my characteristic and realize that not only are you like an over-thinker, you can also be like another characteristic. But like I also found like kids that like, I didn’t even like think, would identify with being an overthinker were in that group. And I mean, I wasn’t made a couple of new friends, so that was fun.

Brooke Tobia (01:55):

And then understood that they probably represent other students in other schools too. And so in the, in the book, you’re going to find an empathy piece first from those students, from that characteristic’s perspective. So, which is, I think is really great. So just reading that empathy piece and understanding the class clown and how they see themselves and what their intentions are in class and why they’re doing the things that they’re doing was a really cool look into the student’s perspective.

Guy MacLaury (02:24):

This project was super heavy on researching and gathering and interviewing.

Brent (02:28):

That’s Guy MacLaury he teaches humanities and he’s Brooke’s teaching partner on the project.

Guy MacLaury (02:33):

And then once we finished interviewing it was, it was just, it was a project like they were, it was hands off, it was totally student driven from the point of like, okay, you have all this information now we’re going to compile it together. And sure, Tobia and I facilitated these, like we told them what we expected of them. But like this project to me was completely unique because it was, it was like 90% student driven. The other 10% was just Ms. Tobia and I giving them some instructions on how to do it. So in order for me to talk about it, it’s like, it’s hard to talk about it because it’s, I don’t, I don’t really know how much there is that we’ve done besides just get them to understand how they learn, you know?

Brooke Tobia (03:15):

And then following that empathy piece, you’re going to see different strategies that are done in the classroom on everyday basis and things like note taking or group work or peer to peer reading. And then based on that characteristics interviewed over 700 students in San Diego. And from that collected the data and found the average of how much that characteristic enjoys that activity.

Brent (03:40):

Here’s Avery another sixth grade student talking about how they captured the interviews.

Avery (03:44):

We caught a little bit of like a broader spectrum and we asked them questions about like calming classroom techniques they would do in their classrooms. Our questions were like, for each technique we would ask them like as what type of student they were like outgoing or shy, how would they rate that task? Like if it was group work, a shy person might say like, Oh, I give that a one out of five stars, but like an outgoing person, like five out of five stars. It’s so fun, i get to be with my friends. So yeah. And then we use that information to make our book “How to Teach Us”just talking about how to help teachers teach their students from the students’ perspective.

Brent (04:32):

Was there anything like surprising or from that data that you guys collected?

Avery (04:39):

Well, a lot of it was like a bit surprising. Yeah. Because we noticed like patterns that like, like I was saying that the shy person doesn’t like group work, but the outgoing person likes group work. It’s kind of fun. It was fun to see those patterns. Cause there was like parts where it would be like, Oh, they don’t like, they don’t like, they’re very opposite on like some things. But with computer work, they both had like five stars. They love it a lot. So that, I think that was the most surprising thing that even though those two characteristics are super different, they still like, like the same things.

Brent (05:18):

Can you give me like your thoughts on doing math and like statistics and data with like actual data you guys collected it. Wasn’t just some random thing that your teacher assigned.

Avery (05:30):

Yeah. When we first do that, I was like, wait, we’re doing this for our book. What? And it was very difficult because we went over it like a lot, like it happened a bunch of times. Like we had our data, we made giant big posters that we hung around, like the classroom. And we tried, we found like averages for the star ratings, of each category for each characteristic. But I remember that when we first did it, we messed up. So we had to do it over many times.

Brent (06:08):

Also like a little more, I guess, real life. Cause it was real. Right. You found real data.

Avery (06:13):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Like other than doing like, it was kind of weird, like mr. Pickles has blah, blah, blah. What find the average. It was like, these people actually have these averages and it felt like you needed to do it. Like you might be like, I don’t want to find the averages of Mr. Pickles’ white cats. I want to find this in like a real world situation. So it felt like it had more relevance. It had a lot more relevance in like what we were talking about.

Avery (06:56):

As outgoing people we love to make friends and bring me with them in class. We are definitely extroverted people and we love to express ourselves. Sometimes in class we feel like we want to hang out with our friends or doodle when we were supposed to be paying attention, encouraged us, outgoing people to express our creativity outside of class. So don’t feel the need to doodle. For example, you may suggest drawing a picture to go along with our work. So we feel like the work relates to us. Also, if we try to show you something, look at it and appreciate it. We are outgoing people and we love to learn

Brooke Tobia (07:31):

An educator might look at this and just say, you know, I have this one student who is kind of hard to reach and they’re struggling in these areas. And I know that I do a lot of note taking in my class. So what can I do? And this can be a tool for them. But also it also has a survey in the back that we used to interview the students. So teachers can, it’s just a, it’s a Bitly. And so they can just look at that Bitly, go and ask their students the same questions just to get to know their students better, which has been really great for us in our team.

Brent (08:23):

A Bitl.y is a condensed internet link that allows it to be more easily shared. And you can check out the link that Brooke is referring to in our show notes.

Brent (08:33):

Why do you think it’s important for teachers to listen to students?

Avery (08:37):

Well, we talked about this actually a lot in that a lot of those students who are, that teachers struggle to reach in classes. Like they feel like they’re not getting enough voice in the classroom. It feels like our classrooms, like here and are just more successful when they have relevance to the student, like relevance to everyone in the classroom, more personal. And you can’t get personal with a student if you don’t know them. So.

Brent (09:12):

And do you think that helps help students learn better or just feel like place in class?

Avery (09:20):

Yeah, like they’ll place in class. Like I feel like they will, they will be more willing to learn. Like they might, like the slow person might not get any faster, but they might feel like, “”Hey, I really want to get this work done. It’s not just like I’m slow. So I’m not going to do it.” Like if they know that that student is slow, they’re going to push them to do like have good life, like in class, like classroom life. So they can just easily complete the work at their own pace and just feel good about what they’re doing.

Brent (10:01):

Here’s Olivia again, explaining why you should get to know your students.

Olivia (10:05):

You should just get to know your students a little more because like the only way to know how some person would like, or how would they want it or how would they would learn best is through them. And through talking to them, you don’t want to just make assumptions about someone. So, I mean, it kind of just goes for also just like, it’s kind of also like a metaphor for life.

Guy MacLaury (10:28):

One cool thing that came out of this project that Ms. Tobia and I saw is that unlike other projects that we’ve both done in the past separately, our student engagement in this project was pretty high. It was like extremely high. And, and we, and we kind of, we attributed that to a couple of different factors and yes, we were constantly reminding our students like, Hey, this is a book that you are writing for educators. You’re going to teach them how to teach you. And for a lot of the students, that was like a huge sticking point. That was like, what was driving them. But for many of the other students, I think that what kept them going was just the fast paced nature of this project. Because as with any project, like you are, you got to, you got a deadline, you have to go out there, you gotta teach them how to interview. You gotta go out there and you got to interview, you gotta come back in, take all those papers, sift through them, compile them make sense of them and then get together as a group, create the poster boards that become later on the pages. So everything like it was just extreme. There was never a dull moment in the project. And I think that that’s kinda like what really had the students and kept them motivated. And every day they came in, like, what are you doing today? What are we doing today? And I love that question because they know that it’s something new and exciting and they’re ready for it.

Olivia (11:45):

I think it might just be because I mean, we are so young and we still are, you know, students. And then there’s the whole idea of, I mean, when, like when you’re older, do you know more and I mean, True, but I just don’t think to Cause a bunch of teachers, I think have the mindset of kids. They don’t know what’s best for them, but I think we should have a say in what we want. I mean, it’s our education, right? So like, this is how I want to learn my ethic, how, how I want to have my education and as this is how I would have it best and how it would best affect me. Cause not only is it just like also kind of, it’s not only cool and kind of like a good way to have it, but it’s also just a better way because you know, if a kid has an interest in it, in it, they won’t really have as much passion and they won’t really, usually the outcome won’t be as good if they’re not as interested in it.

Brooke Tobia (12:40):

I think what was really great and simple and eye opening to me as an educator, after I saw the data come together where the things that we do in our classroom, the simple things that we know, but it’s just really nice to revisit. We should keep doing. And so we know this, right? This makes sense. It’s nothing, it’s not rocket science, but it made me kind of develop my lesson plans a little bit different and think about them differently instead of scaffolding them so much as like the beginning, middle end. I’m kind of thinking about what part of this concept that we’re to these unit that I’m teaching, right? How am I reaching all of these modalities, these techniques. And if I am looking at specific chapters in the book and saying, okay, well this student typically struggles in these areas, or I think that they might not find this as much as engaging as possible. So looking at for tips for, I mean, straight coming from the kids, what I can do better. So I think that’d be a cool way to do it. Yeah. What I’m hoping

Avery (13:42):

From the book is that that like all students are different that they come in, all shapes like categories. Like they can fit into more than one. And I just want them to feel like I can make my classroom a better place. I can make it a more personal, like knowing my students, who they are and like just make the classroom the best it can be. Like they can do that. Like, we’re just like a bunch of six grade students and like, they’re like teachers who’s been teaching for a long time. Like if we can do it, I will share, like they can do it kind of thing.

Brent (14:25):

“How to Teach Us” is available now on Amazon. You can also find a link to the survey referenced by the students and Brooke in the show notes, along with a few other resources that may help you learn a little bit more about your students.

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