Shifting the Focus: Students as Teachers

Posted by Colleen Pacatte on 1/19/2018 7:30:00 AM

Guest Blogger:  Mrs. Aimee Redding, Foriegn Language Teacher at River Trail and Viking Schools


Shifting the Focus:  Students as Teachers


Teachers are always looking for unique ways to engage students in meaningful ways.  We are fortunate to be living in a time where learning and teaching is not constrained within the walls of the classroom.  Students can easily share information among other classes, between schools, or publish for the world to see. 


As a seventh and eighth grade Spanish teacher at River Trail and Viking Schools, I try to give my students the opportunity to learn through teaching whenever possible. If students are put in the driver’s seat, they will be engaged and learn the curriculum at a deeper level.  Furthermore, these experiences will build confidence, independence, and ownership. 


Over a period of two years, my eighth grade Spanish For Heritage Learners class created a virtual library of children’s books in Spanish.  The group of middle schoolers practiced their reading fluency in Spanish while creating videos with a green screen and the iMovie app.  The middle schoolers that created the videos were engaged throughout the video creation process because they were creating a resource that children would actually see and use.  Other kids in our town would actually watch their published video! The collection of videos created a digital library for our younger population of bilingual students in D56.  Younger students are able to watch these read-alouds at school and home on their iPads.


This past fall, my seventh grade Spanish For Heritage Learners class at River Trail studied culture and completed a problem-based learning project.  Their problem was “How can we preserve and share our culture?” Students created videos in Clips that highlighted something they felt was an important aspect of their own culture.  Videos were initially created in Spanish and then later translated to English.  Students worked as a class to upload the videos to YouTube and created their class website using Weebly.  Although many students had minimal experience publishing content on the internet, they worked together to build their final website with minimal help from myself.  After their website went live, groups of students presented their videos and website to classes within River Trail School.  Not only did the seventh graders  figure out a way to preserve and share their Mexican culture, but they also wrote in Spanish, learned about digital citizenship, created a website, and presented in front of different groups of people.


The two previously mentioned projects met my objectives as a teacher, but also went above and beyond what I had anticipated for a few reasons.  First, students were demonstrating their acquired knowledge while learning what makes and effective digital presentation.  Furthermore, students that normally resisted work were were not only engaged, but showing pride in their project. Lastly, other students in the school were excited to learn from these new materials created by other kids. It was a win-win for all involved.


This has proven successful in the classroom; thus, our classes have embarked on our next project.  Spanish language students are revamping the culture portion of the curriculum through student created Clips videos. In this new project and future endeavors, I’m looking forward to continually finding ways to shift the focus from me as the sole teacher to my students to create quality content that can be used to teach others. The skills that students develop from creating high quality digital presentations will transfer to other projects and into their future 21st century careers. 


Check out my students’ work here:

-Digital Library for bilingual students

-Class website about Mexican culture