Whole Group Discussion
During Live Investigation and Task sessions (both teacher-led), I often use a whole group discussion format just like a traditional classroom. Blended or not, there is no substitute for discussion.
Like It-Love It-Gotta Have It is a strategy I use to differentiate assignments within my micro-groups in a Live Investigation. The three names are, in my opinion, a better way of saying high, medium and low. The kids really love the names. In a Live Investigation, there is usually varying levels of abillity or knowledge in that particular skill. By making a high, medium, and low activity, students have the ability to challenge themselves at their own level. I assign different parts of the room for each activity so I can physically see where the students are. Most of the time, I let the students self-assess and they move throughout the room according to which level they are. They are free to move (up or down) from one section to the next. Most of the activites I assign here are digital. I really like using Khan Academy here, as I can track students physically as well as digitally. With this strategy, I can also target the students at the Like It level and allow the Gotta Have it students to fly a bit on their own.
My students respond well to kinesthetics. Popping up for an answer choice or when they are ready to move on to the next topic is a way to keep the students engaged and also check for understanding. Turn and talk - students turn to talk to their neighbor about a question/problem/scenario that was posed. One of the partners then reports out by either being chosen from the equity sticks or by volunteering by putting their thumb up. I use Shoulder Partner strategy to give students the opportunity to talk, share and explain content to each other. This strategy is good to increase the accountable talk in classrooms and to practice speaking and listening skills.
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.