I use quite a bit of collaborative group work in my teaching. Monday I was sorting the other class into inquiry groups to end our unit on Greece and Rome. Because they had already learned about Greece I decided to have them focus on Rome. Sometimes I sit with students and brainstorm a list of topics but, because I don’t know these students as well as my regular class, I pre-selected a variety of topics, gave a short description, and asked them to rank them in order of interest.
Flash to me sorting stacks of paper. Usually, I try to give every student their first choice. Then I make adjustments based on the students, previous groupings, personalities, and other factors. However, I realized I still didn’t know that much about how this group of students works together. Yikes! I decided it would be okay though. I believe any group of students can learn to work together so I started pulling some lessons that I might teach them in the next week or so.
- Laying ground-rules: having students decide what their group work will look and sound like.
- Making a work plan: planning out what they need to do and who will do it.
- Building on strengths: helping them understand what strengths they bring to a small group.
- Disagreeing Agreeably: A lesson that I can never teach enough times.
I may not have grouped the students ideally, but sometimes those random groups can be the best ones. Every student got the topic they wanted to study so at least I know they are interested and invested in diving into Ancient Rome!