Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 29, 2013

Students learn by teaching

Taylor Middle focuses on project-based learning.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

Tipton — Jamie Gassoway stood before a fifth-grade class at Taylor Intermediate School and taught the students about personification.

“Does anyone know what personification is?” she asked the students.

Hands shot up. They told Gassoway that personification is assigning human qualities to things that are not human, like “the flowers danced in the wind.”

Gassoway continued teaching, though she is not actually a teacher. She’s a student at Taylor Middle School.

Recently, students in Barb Easton’s eighth-grade class walked over to Taylor Intermediate School to teach Judy Weirauch’s class about metaphors, similes, idioms, analogies and personification.

“At Taylor Middle School, just as we are throughout the corporation, we’re focusing on project-based learning,” Easton said.

With project-based learning, students not only learn information, but they are required to apply it.

“Studies show that if students can teach others what they’ve learned, they retain at least 90 percent of what they know,” Easton said.

Gassoway agreed.

“If I write it and I teach it, I understand it more,” she said. “I was a little nervous at first about doing it, but my mom encouraged me and gave me advice, like don’t be shy.”

The fifth-graders look up to the older kids as role models, Weirauch said. For them to see older kids placing a value on learning and teaching others, it says something, she said.

Easton said her students were teaching like pros.

“What I thought was neat was each student who taught would begin teaching and then assess and adjust the lesson to meet the needs of the students,” Easton said. “So not only did they learn, but they also learned how others learn. Making those adjustments shows they were truly teaching. And we didn’t tell them to do that. They just picked up on it. After each session, they’d talk about what else they could to help the fifth-graders more or improve the process.”

Kids who know they’re going to have Easton next semester have been asking if they can teach a class, too.

“So it’s a big hit with the eighth-graders,” she said.