Reflection: Complex Tasks Analyzing "Black Men And Public Space" - Section 1: Partner Work


I found myself adjusting on my feet to the reality that in some classes, almost half of my students had not completed their homework.  When I assessed which students were in this category, it became clear to me that most were my students who tend to struggle.

I quickly rethought the partnerships (I had initially planned to pair my students as shoulder partners) and decided to place each student who had not done their homework with a peer "coach", by which I mean a student who had done his/her homework, and whom I could generally trust to have done the homework correctly.  I instructed the coaches to have their partners read the essay to them, pausing at the end of each paragraph to discuss the main idea so that their partners could generate the mini-summaries with the aid of their coaches.  By providing the students in need with one-on-one peer coaching, it gave them an opportunity to hear how another student thinks and strategizes his/her way through a complex text, while at the same time, it gave the coaches an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.

One pairing in particular, Coach Karen and Coachee Nancy, found the process quite helpful. Karen expressed how much it helped her to "teach" the essay to Nancy, and Nancy wore an especially large grin of relief at the end of the process, glowing at the work she was able to complete with the essay. In fact, at the time of this writing, my students have worked with another essay, performing the same mini-summaries, and guess who did her homework on her own this time?  If you said Nancy, you are correct!

A few logistic notes:  

The spontaneous repurposing of the partnerships extended the time it took for students to complete the partner work, sometimes taking up the whole period.  In many cases, I even exempted the coaching pairs from completing the partner questions, and allowed them to instead focus on getting their partners through the essay.

For partnerships who were not of the coaching nature, I allowed them to read quietly or to work on another assignment if they finished early, which was rare.

In most classes, time prevented us from reviewing the questions thoroughly as a whole class, so this portion of the lesson was pushed into the following day.

And finally, while the coaching strategy was overall very successful, I will use it with caution going forward, so that it does not become burdensome to the coaches. 


  On-The-Spot Rethinking Partner Work
  Complex Tasks: On-The-Spot Rethinking Partner Work
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Analyzing "Black Men And Public Space"

Unit 3: House on Mango Street Part II
Lesson 2 of 13

Objective: Working with a partner, SWBAT answer a series of questions about the style, structure, and purpose of the essay "Black Men and Public Space" by Brent Staples.

Big Idea: Students explore how a non-fiction text compliments a theme discovered in a fictional text.

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