Saturday, February 6, 2016

Strategy #5 - Collaboration Station (Engagement Strategies Series)

So, this is my last entry in my Engagement Strategies Series! I hope you've like them and picked up a few ideas to try or tweak in your own classroom.

I'm ending this series with a strategy that I've used for years, both in ELA and math. I've always called it "Collaboration Station," though since moving to 7th grade where I only teach ELA, I've renamed it "Collaborative Commentary." The idea is still the same, though :)

The gist of Collaboration Station is fairly simple: students work together to solve a problem, respond to a prompt, or answer an open-ended question.

Here is how I make it work:

Put students in groups of 4-5 and give them the assignment. Provide some time for students to talk through the assignment, making sure everyone understands what they are being asked to do. I will often ask them to reword the question or prompt. And sometimes, I'll have them come up with an action plan for answering. For example, if it's an open-ended literary analysis question, I will encourage them to not only discuss what they think the answer might be, but to also go back in the story together to identify the evidence they will cite to support their thinking. (This step is really important for the struggling learners. Giving them a chance to talk out the assignment will make them much more successful when it comes to responding.)

Next, each student responds ON THEIR OWN. Everyone must have their own answer. This ensures that a group member isn't just sitting there quietly, letting everyone else answer for them.

After everyone is finished with their individual answers, they each share (and yes, everyone MUST share!).

Finally, students work together to come up with one AWESOME answer. Usually, this involves taking bits and pieces of everyone's responses and combining them together. Students will turn in this answer, along with each of their individual answers.

(The final answer is in the middle; individual answers are taped around the final answer.)

The first few times we do this, I sit with each group to model the process. I really believe this step is CRUCIAL! The kids need to see that everyone has an active role in this process... it isn't about just letting the loudest voice in the group run the show. Once I see that groups can handle this, I gradually begin allowing them to work independently, but I'm always circulating the room to make sure everyone is working together.

Have you ever used something like this in your classroom? How do you organize/manage it? I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Teaching!!

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  1. I really like the idea of each student having to have his/her own answer before the group shares. It is hard to find a balance with group work so that every students participates. Taking the time to model is something I have been trying very hard to do with my students; I often talk to my students about how to be a good group member, but modeling works much better. What sort of problems do you have your students solve in your ELA class?

    1. Hi Julie! So, most of the time, students are working on answering an open-ended lit analysis question. Sometimes, I may also have them work on writing... maybe like an opening paragraph for an argumentative essay. Thanks for reading!