Another thing that I want to incorporate into my classroom
this year is more structured partner (and eventually 3 or 4person group) work.
This is because I strongly believe that when people talk about their ideas,
they push each other and themselves to clarify, develop, question, integrate,
and add to ideas in ways that no one person could do alone. Collaboration also reinforces the idea that I, as the teacher, am not the only source of knowledge in the room, instead it builds a belief in classmates and in self.
In the past, I have simply told students that they are welcome to work with a partner during most work time in class. As a result, some students would seek out other students for help when they got stuck and others would work independently. When we were working on a longer problem for the whole period, I would often be more direct in my instructions. I would have students take a couple minutes of PTT and then ask students to share with a partner what they had done so far. Students would then write brief notes on the similarities and differences in each other's work. After that, I would instruct them to work together to solve the problem. This was slightly more successful, but often ended up with one student doing the majority of the thinking and the other student copying down their partner's work.
To support my students to fully take advantage of everything that partner/group work has to offer, I've decided to do two things: structure partner/group work and explicitly teach it. To help me with this goal, I did some reading about exploratory talk, complex instruction, and accountable talk.
Before I get into the specifics of what group work will look like and how I will teach and support it, it was important to me to figure out what I valued and wanted to promote in group work. Maybe I will primarily reinforce these values implicitly, maybe I will teach them explicitly, and/or maybe I will guide my students in creating their own norms around these values (see here or here or here or here for examples of what this might look like). To help me figure out what these values were, though, I pulled group work norms/ground rules from four sources, and categorized them.
In the past, I have simply told students that they are welcome to work with a partner during most work time in class. As a result, some students would seek out other students for help when they got stuck and others would work independently. When we were working on a longer problem for the whole period, I would often be more direct in my instructions. I would have students take a couple minutes of PTT and then ask students to share with a partner what they had done so far. Students would then write brief notes on the similarities and differences in each other's work. After that, I would instruct them to work together to solve the problem. This was slightly more successful, but often ended up with one student doing the majority of the thinking and the other student copying down their partner's work.
To support my students to fully take advantage of everything that partner/group work has to offer, I've decided to do two things: structure partner/group work and explicitly teach it. To help me with this goal, I did some reading about exploratory talk, complex instruction, and accountable talk.
Before I get into the specifics of what group work will look like and how I will teach and support it, it was important to me to figure out what I valued and wanted to promote in group work. Maybe I will primarily reinforce these values implicitly, maybe I will teach them explicitly, and/or maybe I will guide my students in creating their own norms around these values (see here or here or here or here for examples of what this might look like). To help me figure out what these values were, though, I pulled group work norms/ground rules from four sources, and categorized them.
Values of Group Work

Strength in Numbers (51)


The Value of Exploratory Talk (Chapt. 4, pg. 68)


Participation

 everyone gets a turn

1)
Give everyone in your group a chance to speak


everyone participates

3 We will ask
everyone to say what they think.
2 We will share
what we know with each other.
6 We will pay
attention and try to think of good ideas

Understanding

 give reasons for ideas

4)
Try to understand what is said
6)
Demand good explanations


ideas are elaborated when necessary, so that everyone understands what is
meant

5 We will give
reasons for what we say.

Listening

 listen to different ideas

2)
Listen to what people say
3)
Check that everyone else listens

4 Everyone will
listen carefully to others and consider what we hear.


Respect

8)
Treat all opinions with respect


tentative ideas are treated with respect


Interact
with Ideas

5)
Build on what others have said
7)
Challenge what is said


partners engage critically but constructively with each other’s ideas

ideas offered for joint consideration may be challenged

challenges are justified and alternative ideas or understandings are offered


Joint
Responsibility

9)
Share responsibility
10)
Reach agreement


opinions are sought and considered before decisions are jointly made

knowledge is made publicly accountable (and so reasoning is visible in the
talk)

1 We will talk
together to think about what to do.
7 We will decide
what to do only when everyone has said all they want.
8 We will try to
agree about what we think

Synthesizing the table above, I came up with the following values for myself as I move forward in thinking about group work:
 Everyone gets a turn to share their ideas and everyone listens
 Explain reasons or ask for explanation to build group understanding
 Respectfully challenge and build on each other’s ideas
 Make decisions together after everyone has shared
It's also extremely important for students to feel comfortable sharing halfformed ideas. This is
something that I am hoping to normalize and value in my class overall, but I
may emphasize this in group work.
Finally, the following norms for group work are also presented in Strength in Numbers (48). These were separated from their norms for group discussion, which are in the table above. I definitely plan to implement these guidelines for the mechanics of group work in my class.
Finally, the following norms for group work are also presented in Strength in Numbers (48). These were separated from their norms for group discussion, which are in the table above. I definitely plan to implement these guidelines for the mechanics of group work in my class.
 stay focused on your group’s workno talking outside your group
 you have the right to ask for help
 you have the responsibility to give help to anyone who asks
 helping is not the same thing as telling
Hi Nicole, I found your post via Justin Lanier. I really appreciate the synthesis here.
ReplyDeleteI will look forward to learning more with you as you try out these ideas in your classroom.
Thanks for reading! I'm going to be making some final decisions over the next couple of days in how I want to launch and maintain partner work. I'm looking forward to trying it out!
ReplyDelete