It is important to begin this “Business Meeting” class period as organized as possible, given there is only 45 minutes to work with. To help the process I print two copies of my student roster organized in a spreadsheet with students pairs who are working together for the activity. With this format I can easily recall partner pairings and document student absences. I use a second copy of the roster and make name-tag strips to set at the seats for the business meeting. This adds a“formal” touch and shows students that this is a big deal! Finally, I place a Peer Feedback Sheet in an individual folder for each student for taking notes or jotting down questions and/or comment during the students presentations.
A few notes about the business meeting:
1) I have my students “dress for success”. This sets a great tone for the day and impresses any classroom visitors. Also, when students dress up they are more confident in speaking to their peers – I have discovered this over time!
2) Timers are critical to keep the meeting flowing. I carry around a stopwatch rather than using the intrusive online timer. This allows me to subtly rotate the room and prompt groups as needed to wrap up their conversations when time is ended without disrupting the "work" environment.
This lesson is a highly productive use of most of the period’s time, however, I ALWAYS make sure to end the class with a few shout outs about things that I saw in the activity. As I rotated the room, I made careful note of these exceptional, SPECIFIC successes. If I see an instance where a shy or reserved student demonstrated confidence and great oral communication skills, I will make a specific mention of it to the class; congratulating them on their fantastic oral communication technique – and its even better if you can quote something great that they said, showing them that you were “hanging on to their every word!” Another example might be if a student respectfully, accurately, and illustratively disagreed with an element of a presenting group’s mathematical presentation and tactfully challenges the group. Highlighting these instances helps foster a classroom culture of collaboration. Additionally I look for examples that demonstrates proficiency in constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others (math practice 3). Not only is this good teaching, it can be VERY impactful.
All in all, this is a really unique way to run a class period that is very rewarding for the students! When ever possible I feel we need to provide students with the opportunity to model what a real work place is like. If you invite in outside guests, ALWAYS be sure to close the class by allowing them to share a few thoughts that they witnessed as well - - the students always take the opinions and comments of "outsiders" more seriously than “the same ‘ol teacher”… In fact, come to think of it, I’m sure its not a lot different than being a parent and having someone else tell your kids the same thing that you have been trying to tell them repeatedly!
*I always send thank you cards to anyone who visits my class for the benefit of the students.