Use Learning Centers to Turn Students Into Brilliant Leaders

A student leader is a student who takes on a leadership role in their classroom. As teachers, we want to help all students develop and foster leaderships skills so students can succeed in school and in life. Just by observing your classroom, you can see which of your students are already exhibiting leadership qualities and others who need that little push before they become true leaders. Common qualities of students leaders are: 

  • Motivated: Student leaders are motivated to help their classmates learn and succeed. They are passionate about their work and they are willing to put in the effort to make a difference.
  • Responsible: Student leaders are responsible for their actions and their decisions. They are accountable to their classmates, their teacher, and their school.
  • Communicative: Student leaders are able to communicate effectively with others. They are able to listen to others, share their ideas, and build consensus.
  • Collaborative: Student leaders are able to work effectively with others. They are able to build relationships, resolve conflict, and achieve common goals.
  • Problem-solving: Student leaders are able to identify and solve problems. They are able to think critically and creatively, and they are able to come up with solutions that work for everyone.

Learning centers can be a powerful tool for developing leadership qualities by offering unique opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and empowerment. Follow these steps to create learning centers that will foster leadership skills in all of your students.

  1. Create The Right Groups: Use classroom data to make strategic choices when grouping students into learning centers. This minimizes hostile takeovers from assertive students who like to hear themselves talk, and it also encourages wallflowers to step into the light. When we create the right circumstances, leaders emerge who we never expected to fill the role.

  2. Design Learning Center Roles for Everyone: Ask certain students to be the go-to person if others are struggling or need additional support, since you won’t be able to be in all places at once. These students speak “kid language” and can help their peers with a different voice. Let students break into huddle time with their team and have them design a check sheet of their responsibilities. As you establish the centers in regular rotation, allow students to utilize interpersonal skills and demonstrate their understanding of the expectations by creating roles that work for them.
  3. Student-Led Learning Centers: Give students full control over the centers they are working at. Assign them responsibilities such as designing activities, managing resources, and facilitating discussions. This approach empowers students to develop leadership skills by taking initiative, making decisions, and leading their peers.

  4. Rotate Roles: Prominently display a leaderboard in the classroom. It is as easy as putting up a class roster and having the students put a check next to their names when they have taken a turn for a particular center. Allow students who volunteer or are elected by their peers to be leaders first so those who need more time to choose the leadership role have had models to learn from. 
  5. Allow Students to Assess Themselves: Give students the opportunity to asses the work they completed while working in the learning center. Ask students questions that allow them to gauge their learning. Put the power of grading into students' hands. You can also have students assess each other. Ask team leaders to keep a tally of on-task and off-task behaviors and alert the group when they are straying too far from the task of the center.
  6. Discuss Learning Practices: Discuss your learning practices using the language of metacognition as a model. For example, say, “When I reflect on how to solve this math problem, I realize the steps I took to solve it. First, I looked at the patterns in the numbers, and then I selected the strategy I wanted to use. The first strategy I used didn't work, but I kept going. By taking the time to consider where I may have made a mistake, I slowed down enough to try a different way and was able to solve the problem.” Helping students think through their thinking and providing language to communicate it shows them how to be metacognitive in a useful way, particularly as it pertains to learning in a specific center.
  7. Leadership Reflection Corners: Dedicate a space within the learning center or a time after the activity is complete for students to reflect on their leadership experiences. Provide prompts, journals, or digital platforms where they can record their thoughts, challenges, and lessons learned. Encourage discussions and sharing among students to enhance their self-awareness and growth as leaders.

  8. Celebrate Student Leadership: Recognize and celebrate student leadership achievements within the learning center. Ask students what they liked and disliked about the center and use their feedback to make future learning centers better. Showcase students' accomplishments through displays, newsletters, or social media platforms to inspire others and create a culture that values and encourages leadership.

Portions of this section were excerpted from Hacking Learning Centers

By integrating these strategies, learning centers can serve as catalysts for student leadership development, fostering a sense of responsibility, self-confidence, and a desire to make a positive impact.

Main post Image by Buecherwurm_65 via Pixabay 

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