I find it necessary to explicitly teach cooperation by guiding the building of community, reinforcing a spirit of respect and productivity in our learning community. To ensure that successful science learning takes place throughout the school year, I use "true cooperative learning" which requires all students to make a contribution. This foundational lesson is revisited periodically.
I take into account who my students are as learners. Then I assign groupings based on levels of understanding, and heterogeneously mixing students who do not understand content with students who do. In addition, I consider the role of each team member because they must be accountable for a specific task such as gathering materials, recording information, serving as spokes person, reading, or keeping the time, etc.
In this lesson, students are seated at their tables in teams of four. I say, "We are going to practice working together in partnerships of two and as teams. Each person at your table is your team member and you must learn to share and get along." Each table has a scenario to act out where sharing is required. I review the expectations for working as a team.
1. Students work as real world scientists
2. Stay on tasks
3. Engage in active listening
4. Everyone participates
My goal is to become an expert at implementing cooperative learning practices and I explicitly teach working in partnerships and teams. I suggest reviewing Kagan Cooperative Learning and Wee Science strategies which addresses every concern of classroom management.
I use the fish bowl strategy where students gather around the demonstration group who models the group members roles for everyone for everyone to see. As these students demonstrate each role, I explain the specifics of the job to the other students.
1. Similatneous interaction
2. Positive interdependence
3. Individual accountability
4. Equal participation
My students must be able to explain how they work together. This practice reinforces the need to collaborate with others and reveals why it is important to "get along."
In this section of the lesson, students are not actually engaged in scienticific observations or experiments. However, I have found that this is a critical part of science instruction if students are to become successful learners as the year progresses. So, in partnerships, students engage in "Team Talk" to demonstrate Common Core standard Speaking/Listening 1 a. Following agreed upon rules for discussion (e.g. listening to others and taking turns speaking about topics under discussion.)
At this point, I want students to discuss what they learned about cooperating and working with others. They are applying the very skills as they tell how to share science equipment and listen to others talk about their findings and observations. I employee Kagan's RoundRobin. Before hand, I place large chart paper around the classroom with numbers and colors. I have the students number off. They go to the appropriate chart and stand. Once all students arrive, I say "All eyes on the speaker, listen quietly, and pay attention." (In RoundRobin, students do not ask questions, they merely listen.) Then students take turns responding to how they get along with others.
The elaboration simply reiterates how scientists work together in the real world to find solutions to problems and answers to questions. I say, "If you are to emulate real world scientists, you must learn to work together. Real world scientists listen to each other as they share their findings."
To successfully form cooperative learning teams, I first think about the end results of our investigation and what is required to accomplish it. This information provides me with guidelines for forming teams and I know if student ability should be my primary focus. I also organize my students in pairs, triads, or groups of four. I take into account who my students are as learners and the friendships they form.
Then I assign groupings based on levels of understanding, and heterogeneously mixing students who do not understand content with students who do. In addition, I consider the role of each team member because they must be accountable for a specific task such as a recorder of information, a gatherer of materials, a spokes person, a reader, or a time-keeper, etc.
My student evaluation is simple. As the students Explain, I observe how well students get along with each other as they work in partnerships and teams. I note who is sharing and being respectful. I also look for students who are demonstrating active listening. Active listening is discussed prior to all lessons. I always say, "Eyes on the speak. Listen quietly. Pay attention and ask questions."