When kids work in small groups things can go well or things can go wrong. One of the ways that you can help them collaborate and be good team members to each other while promoting responsibility among and to the group is to have them fill out a work plan. Today I had my fifth grade social studies class fill out work plans for their one-week mini inquiry project on daily life in the Renaissance. I used this one (Form_Work Plan) from Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniel’s book Comprehension and Collaboration.
I explained how to fill it out and what each of the questions meant and set them to work. I very quickly realized that I should have MODELED filling one out on my own. Take this common response as a “for example.”
Where will you find information for your questions?
Ha! Of course. The Internet, a miraculous place of wonder. I kicked myself when I saw it. I mean, I knew that I should have modeled the process first. But I didn’t, I rushed it because of time. That’s what you get when you don’t use the strategies you know work.
Luckily, I had a great chart all prepared about efficient internet search strategies so I went around and did some table conferences. I went through the chart and asked the students to name the specific steps they would take and in what order. Then we brainstormed some trusted websites they could check once they exhausted the school search page our tech coordinator has put together.
After that I spent the rest of the period getting them to work at a decent noise level. (It was one of those days) I used the coffee house analogy, a faint pleasant buzz but a still workable atmosphere. After many reminders, and the exception of one smart-aleck mimicking a cappuccino machine, they finally found working zen. Then it was time to go home.
So in reflection…
Teach students explicitly what to do.
The tools we give students are only as useful as we make them.
I need a chart with a list of trusted websites and the type of information you might find in each one.
Lots of light bulbs went off today, mine was the biggest one!