The Community of Learners is an essential part of the Self Directed Learning method.
It is created by arranging students’ desks into a circular formation rather than in rows and columns like at traditional schools. Each student is given an equal position within the community and a sense of respect is instilled from the beginning. Within the Community of Learners everyone has expectations they use to enhance the learning experience. Even the teacher’s desk is part of the community.
In the middle of the community is an open space where students can gather to meet with one another, plan, and do their work. Around the outside of the community are the tools students need to aid their learning; displays of student’s work, books, art materials, manipulatives, games, and other supplies. The students love the space in the middle, and the teacher can use it when a whole-class lesson is necessary. All of these aid in the students’ path to discovery.
The circular formation enables the students to see all of their classmates. It is not possible to hide at the back of the class or be lost in the middle. It is important for children to learn how to effectively communicate with one another, and looking at each other when engaged in conversation is without a doubt one of the most important tools of communication. The teacher can blend in with the community, so that the students learn the valuable lessons of social interaction without having to be obviously policed. Additionally, the teacher can always slip in to mediate or facilitate if necessary.
The Community of Learners is useful for preparing the students to enter into the real world. All of these essential social skills are reinforced every day in the Community of Learners; students learn to make eye contact, wait for others to finish talking, and ask and answer all sorts of questions on the spot.
Within the Community of Learners we also find the “Author of the Day” program along with Informal and Formal Time.
During Informal Time, students compose writings of their own choice. When a student feels ready to share, he or she stands up and says “I would like to share, please.” Other students may listen or continue writing, but all verbal communication must stop. Following the reading, the sharer asks for comments or questions. Everyone’s voice is valued. Here is where the students begin to think of writing as a tool for; reaching new skills, achieving new understandings and taking control of information. Pieces of writing are chosen by the student for editing, publishing and Author of the Day submissions.
During Formal Time the Author of the Day’s writing is distributed to his/her classmates. The Author of the Day then reads his/her work, while the students listen and image their favorite part. The Author is always available to answer questions or comments. Students then share their imaging and complete the Language Arts objectives for the day.
As the students become aware of how they learn best and set about discovering the world around them, this Community of Learners provides them an audience with which to share their wonders and discuss ideas, truly instilling in them a love of learning.