Sunday, September 18, 2016

Stop! Collaborate and Listen....

As I listened to 5th - 8th grade students at Winton Woods Intermediate and Middle Schools this past week, I couldn't help but focus on the ways in which they were learning the art of collaboration. IT'S IS an art! Many of us, as adults, are still trying to figure out how to truly collaborate (and not just cooperative) with our peers... can you imagine trying to figure that out in your formative years at ages 10 - 13!?!??

Some students were attempting to make decisions on the direction of their project alongside their teammates, others were just trying to hold teammates accountable for the work they were doing, and still others were making an attempt to share thoughts about how they might conduct a lab experiment. None of these feats seemed to come naturally to those students, but I couldn't help but smile with pride as I watched them take a risk (...exhibit their personal agency...) for the sake of enhancing their group collaboration.

I then thought back to my first experiences collaborating with a team-teacher and how we did everything in our power to NOT be hypocritical and talk the talk of collaborative skills without walking the walk ourselves. It's hard, my friends! Attempting to resolve conflict through personal discussion, completing tasks on time while offering constructive feedback to one another, supporting the roles and responsibilities of self and team members... those are just a few of the skills which are indicators of an effective collaborator. My team teacher and I quickly realized that these skills weren't coming naturally to us and they certainly weren't going to for students, either. So we needed support. We needed to be intentional about learning how to collaborate and consistently reflecting on our collaborative efforts. SO, I wanted to share some collaborative strategies with you also in case you're finding yourself at the beginning of the year longing for some structures you might add to your class which support student's growth on this essential life skill as well!

  • Originally designed as math collaborative strategies, these can be easily adapted for use in any content area as structures for group workshops. (I have also seen many of these on Mandy Neal's "Teaching with Simplicity" blog where she breaks down how you might use them in other content areas as well!) 
  • Okay! fine!!! You want more! I get it... here are some Collaborative Group Work protocols you might find useful as well!
  • I have seen this in multiple ES - MS classrooms as a reminder to students of the indicators of a good collaborator (without hanging up a more text-heavy rubric). Keep in mind... if it hangs on the wall without intent, reference, or as a support, it's just background noise. If you use a strategy like this.... MAKE IT USEFUL! 

  •  And collaborative prompts that could be taped to the inside of team folders and kept on your own adult collaborative working space(s) looks like this:

I can't wait to hear about the strategies you try in your own classroom, which ones seem effective, and how student abilities grow as a result of your own commitment to improving collaborative abilities for yourself and your students!

Peace, love, and Ice-Ice-Baby,


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