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Throughout this book, I’ve also noticed how much the case studies and examples detailed by Lattimer (2014) emphasize group work and collaboration among students. I love using groups in my classes, but so far, I do so with what I would call moderate success. I’ve heard different things about how to structure groups – whether I should assign them, give students a say in who is in their group (or who is NOT in their group), if I should assign specific roles, have students pick roles, or even give roles at all, etc. In the Lattimer (2014) book, I noticed a couple different ideas that seem important for group work:
· “To support success in students’ effective speaking and listening in the classroom, teachers must intentionally teach the norms and skills of what Lauren Resnick refers to as ‘accountable talk’ (1999)” (p. 92);
· An exemplar teacher does well by “ensuring that all groups have regular opportunities to share with the whole class and requiring rotating leadership responsibilities within the group so that every student has a chance to be heard” (p. 94); and
· The math teacher realized that her students’ “collaborative problem-solving process had stalled and their growth stagnated: ‘They got into a kind of pattern where they would fall into different roles within the group,’ she observed. ‘Someone would take on the role of note-taker, someone else would take charge of the calculations, and someone else would focus on actually solving the problem. This usually worked to find a solution to the immediate problem, but it kind of defeated the point of working together. They weren’t really learning from one another and deepening their conceptual understanding’” (p. 126).
In these three quotations, I noted several key take-aways related to group work in an effective classroom:
1. Students must be clearly taught how to cooperate and communicate effectively in groups. Although, I’m not entirely sure how to do this yet, it does make sense and lines up with some of my other ideas and blog posts. And this is definitely a key component of effective literacy skills and particularly when using language and communication strategies that are disciplinary-specific.
2. Rotating roles or responsibilities in groups and amongst the class may help. This rotating of roles could help within the group to ensure that everyone works on every skill at some point in the year, and it also may force some students out of their comfort zone. In addition, it helps, as Lattimer (2014) notes to make sure that every student is heard. I’m wondering how often these roles are rotated, how you ensure that students actually switch roles and don’t just have the dominant person or “natural leader” be the consistent leader in the group even if she is technically also taking notes – or whatever her assigned role may be.
3. Keeping set roles or not really focusing on well-designed group work can make it pointless. There are definitely some times where I do group work when it may not be the most effective tool, so I need to make sure that I evaluate when and why I’m using group work. Plus, although I sometimes assign or give a list of specific roles for each member of the group (usually to hold all students accountable for some portion of the work), I may need to rethink those positions or make sure to change up groups and change up positions more often and more conscientiously.
With all of that in mind, does anyone have excellent group work strategies from their own classes? How do you decide when to use groups? If and how to assign groups and roles within groups? How and when to rotate groups, roles, leadership? Looking forward to talking about this more and figuring out how to best structure my group work so that it supports the development of disciplinary thinking and literacies.