I’m behind in my posts, but I’m catch up soon enough (especially if I go rogue and combine multiple days again).
This strategy is going to expose me as a second year teacher, but I am convinced that the method has value for anyone.
Group and partner tasks in my classroom are always more productive when I ask students to tell me the expectations for the activity. For example, I sometimes have students complete problems posted around the room (I know! So scandalous!). Before we start the activity, I ask students:
- What’s different about the room today?
- What do you think you’re going to do?
- Where should you be writing these problems and work?
- How many people can you work with?
- How many people should I see working in a group?
- What kinds of conversations should I hear from groups?
- How many voices should I hear in the room at any given time?
- What are we doing again?
Some of the answers to these questions are the result of expectations I set at the start of the year (math related conversations, writing down problems and work on scratch paper or in a spiral, etc.), but students can offer up various answers to other questions. Of course, I’ll have a student from time to time that suggests working with 7 students and I need to ask for a reasonable group size.
For the most part, students are pretty consistent with suggesting 1 or 2 partners, then offering 1/2 or 1/3 as the appropriate number of voices in the room. What’s nice about this strategy is I can focus on helping students during activities and reminders are worded communally (“remember we decided”) rather than individually (“I said”).
Asking students to set expectations sounds basic, but it works! The strategy also gives students a greater sense of ownership in the activities.