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Small  Group  Work    

  To   get   us   started   with   working   in   small   groups,   I   introduced   William   Glasser’s   thoughts  on  how  we  learn.  I  thought  it  would  fit  in  nicely  with  my  overall  goals  for   increasing   communication   amongst   peers.   We   read   it   together   and   I   walked   kids   through   the   increase   in   how   much   more   we   learn   can   learn   by   discussing,   experiencing  (doing),  and  most  notably  teaching  others.    

  “What  do  you  think?  If  I  just  gave  you  a  paragraph  to  read  out  of  your  science  book   would  you  learn  more  or  less  than  if  I  asked  you  to  do  an  experiment  and  then  go   home   and   teach   your   parents?”   There   was   a   universal   shout,   “Experiment   and   teaching  our  parents!”       I  wanted  kids  to  apply  this  concept  of  learning  through  teaching  in  their  group  work.   I   began   with   something   that   I   was   noticing   in   their   writing   that   seemed   like   an   overall   difficulty,   homophones,   words   that   sound   alike   but   are   spelled   differently   and   have   different   meanings.   I   thought   kids   could   search   for   one   example   of   a   correctly  used  homophone  and  one  incorrect  use  of  a  homophone  within  their  last   writing   piece.   From   there   they   would   set   a   goal   to   become   an   expert   and   teach   others  about  a  common  homophone  pair  we  use  in  our  writing.       I  told  them  that  there  was  a  new  app  on  their  iPad  called  “Explain  Everything”  that  I   thought  would  be  fun  to  try  and  could  help  us  share  our  homophones,  but  that  I  had   no  clue  how  to  use  it.  The  new  app  allowed  us  to  try  Glasser’s  theory  out  because  it   provided  an  experience  that  incorporated  seeing,  hearing,  doing  and  teaching.  There   was   an   excitement   and   energy   present   from   this   challenge   that   I   had   yet   to   see   with   the  class.  “We  can  help!”  “Don’t  worry  Mrs.  Usher  we  can  teach  you!”  I  managed  to   move  the  power  to  the  hands  of  the  kids  and  even  better,  create  an  opportunity  with   an   even   playing   field.   This   was   a   teaching   opportunity   that   was   new   to   everybody   and   something   that   regardless   of   race,   gender,   or   academic   ability   all   kids   could   feel   successful  and  hopefully  have  fun  doing  it!    

  I   decided   to   put   kids   into   heterogeneous   groups   and   give   each   group   a   common   homophone.  Their  directions  were  to  look  the  words  up  in  the  dictionary  to  get  the   definition.   They   would   then   create   images   of   the   words   that   clearly   showed   the   different   meanings.   This   information   then   would   all   need   to   be   put   into   their   presentation  on  Explain  Everything.  The  Explain  Everything  app  would  allow  them   to  write,  draw  and  add  voice  simultaneously  to  teach  us  about  their  homophone  and   play   it   back   as   a   movie.   These   were   to   be   uploaded   into   a   shared   classroom   site,   where  students  had  access  to  the  videos  for  their  own  learning.     Here  is  my  example:      

  My   directions   stated   that   every   hand   had   to   be   part   of   this   presentation;   so   one   person  should  not  just  dominate  the  iPad.  At  this  point,  observing  the  groups  while   they   worked   seemed   like   the   most   natural   path   to   get   my   initial   baseline   data   on   what   conversations   were   like   in   small   groups.   I   focused   on   evidence   of   discussion   skills:   student   eye   contact,   amount   and   type   of   questions   being   asked   (either   clarifying  or  probing  questions),  allowing  “think  time”  between  remarks  and  seeing   if  kids  shared  the  air  by  either  stepping  up  or  stepping  back.  I  also  wanted  to  see  if   there  were  any  trends  in  the  amount  of  participation  between  gender  and  ethnicity   of   students   during   the   speaking   sequences.   I   decided   that   I   wanted   to   keep   the   excitement  and  energy  going,  so  I  chose  to  not  have  kids  use  the  “accountable  talk”   chart   introduced   earlier,   for   fear   it   would   take   away   from   my   observations.   Below   are   my   findings   for   a   group   comprised   of   one   Hispanic   boy,   two   white   boys,   two   Hispanic   girls   and   one   white   girl.   Below   are   the   number   of   times   that   each   child   showed  a  given  behavior.          

 

Eye  Contact   to  the   Speaker   Clarifying     3   6       3   Questions   Probing             2   Questions   Inviting     2   1       5   Someone  In     Again,   this   data   was   a   discussion   revolved   around   a   task   on   one   iPad.   As   you   can   clearly   see,   there   were   no   questions   asked   from   the   Hispanic   students.   This   didn’t   mean   they   were   necessarily   timid   though.   When   the   white   boys   would   ask   a   question,   the   Hispanic   boy   was   quick   to   grab   the   dictionary   or   iPad   and   begin   exploring   with   obvious   confidence.   (Please   note   that   all   three   boys   in   this   group   were  kids  that  needed  to  “step  back”.)       White  boy:  “Wait,  I  can’t  find  the  word  on  this  page…”     Hispanic  boy:  “Hold  up,  hold  up,  I  think  I  see  it  here.”  The  Hispanic  boy  then  grabbed   the   dictionary   and   began   searching   for   the   word   (which,   he   obviously   didn’t   see   because  it  was  not  on  the  correct  page.)  When  he  turned  the  page,  the  other  white   boy  grabbed  it,  as  he  saw  the  word  almost  immediately.     White  boy  #2:  “Here  it  is.  Write  this  down.  Who  has  a  pencil?”     White  girl:  “Wait,  who  would  like  to  write?”   White   boy   #1:   “I’ll   write.”   He   then   grabs   a   pencil   from   one   of   the   Hispanic   girl’s   hands.     White  girl:  “Wait,  I  think  that  we  should  all  assign  each  other  jobs,  so  it’s  fair.  Mrs.   Usher  wants  everyone  to  be  helping.”   Hispanic  boy:  Grabs   the   dictionary   back   and  searches  for  the  word  to  begin  reading   to   White   boy   #1,   but   White   boy   #2   beats   him   to   it.   Meanwhile   the   Hispanic   girls’   eyes  bounce  from  one  speaker  to  the  next.  All  of  the  boys  eyes  remain  fixed  on  the   objects  based  around  the  task,  occasionally  looking  up  to  a  speaker.       I  realized  that  I  don’t  often  enough  just  sit  and  listen  to  kids  speaking  to  kids.  As  a   teacher,   I   find   myself   constantly   feeling   the   need   to   survey   the   entire   room,   but  

Observation  #1  of  Group  Norms     Hispanic   White   White   Hispanic   Boy   Boy   Boy  #2   Girl   15   11   10   23  

Hispanic   White   Girl  #2   Girl   18   21  

never   really   stopping   to   witness   interactions   like   the   one   written   above.   I   recognized   that   there   was   a   race-­‐like   feeling   and   competitive   edge   amongst   the   boys.   It   was   very   obvious   to   me   that   the   Hispanic   boy   felt   more   in   control   and   more   involved  when  he  was  holding  the  physical  object  that  the  group  was  working  on.  He   never   asked   questions,   yet   always   tried   to   solve   them.   The   white   boys   dominated   the   conversation   and   all   three   boys   dominated   the   actions.   The   white   girl   wasn’t   afraid   to   stand   up   to   these   three   boys   by   openly   asking   questions,   urging   more   shared   collaboration,   and   equal   participation.   Yet,   most   of   her   questions   and   efforts   never  received  any  responses.  The  Hispanic  girls  in  this  group  remained  very  quiet,   except  for  a  side  conversation  they  were  having  about  another  Hispanic  girl  in  the   class  writing  inside  her  desk.  When  I  kept  my  focus  on  them  and  tried  to  listen  in  on   what   they   were   whispering,   they   were   quick   to   tell   on   the   girl   to   me.   I   reminded   them  that  they  needed  to  step  up  and  help  their  group.  The  girls  turned  back  to  their   group,   but   would   only   participate   if   one   of   the   other   kids   told   them   something   specific  to  do.       White  girl:  “I’m  going  to  tell  Mrs.  Usher  that  you’re  not  letting  us  help.”   White  boy#2:  “Okay,  okay.”     White  boy  #2:  “I’ll  write  the  words  and  you  can  talk.”     White   girl:   “Why   don’t   we   all   read   the   definition   together   while   you   write   the   word.   I’ll  count  to  three  and  when  I  press  record  we’ll  all  read.”   Hispanic  boy:  Grabs  the  iPad,  “I  can  press  record.”     White  girl:  “1,  2,  3…”   All  4  kids  read  the  definition  chorally,  except  for  the  white  boy  that  was  writing.       I  spoke  with  the  kids  in  this  group  one  on  one  following  this  activity  and  asked  them   how   they   felt   the   conversation   went   during   the   activity.   I   was   shocked   by   the   honesty  woven  through  all  of  our  conversation.  White  boy  #2  told  me  that  he  was   really  excited,  so  he  wasn’t  sharing  and  having  others  talk  and  help  as  much  as  he   should  have.  White  boy  #1  said  that  he  felt  that  the  others  weren’t  helping.  He  got   defensive,  as  if  he  was  going  to  get  in  trouble.  I  reassured  him  that  I  just  wanted  to   see  how  he  was  feeling  and  what  he  felt  went  well  and  what  he  felt  didn’t  go  so  well   in   the   group.   He   said   that   he   didn’t   like   working   with   Hispanic   girls   #1   and   #2   because  they  didn’t  help.  I  asked  him  if  he  had  made  an  effort  to  invite  them  into  the   conversation  and  to  help  and  he  replied  no.  I  suggested  that  maybe  next  time  if  he   just   told   them   how   he   was   feeling   and   invited   them   in   by   asking   a   question   or   seeking  their  help,  it  could  get  them  to  step  up.  He  nodded  his  head  in  agreement.   The   White   girl   listed   off   all   the   things   she   tried   to   do   to   get   everyone   to   work   together.   She   said   that   she   didn’t   like   it   when   everyone   just   ignored   her.   I   praised   her   efforts   and   urged   her   to   let   people   know   how   she   feels   next   time.   I   suggested  

that   next   time   she   specifically   address   someone   by   name   instead   of   just   talking   to   the   whole   group,   because   it   will   force   them   to   really   listen   and   respond.   She   liked   this  idea  and  perked  up.  My  Hispanic  girls  had  similar  responses;  both  said  that  they   didn’t   understand   the   task   and   that   everyone   was   just   going   too   fast,   but   they   wanted   to   help.   I   expressed   to   them   the   importance   of   not   being   afraid   to   ask   questions   and   that   we   learn   that   way.   They   silently   nodded   and   I   gave   them   both   hugs.       While  reflecting  on  this  group  task,  a  lot  of  things  came  to  light  for  me.  I  realized  that   a  group  of  six  was  just  too  large.  The  kids  in  my  class  sit  in  four  groups  of  six,  so  it   was   convenient   at   the   time   to   quickly   create   heterogeneous   groups   directly   from   their  seating  arrangement.  It  became  obvious  that  the  larger  the  team,  the  harder  it   was  for  all  members  of  the  group  to  interact  with  one  another. There  are  also  social   status  trends  that  seem  to  be  playing  a  large  role  in  group  dynamics.  According  to   Cohen:   “When   a   teacher   assigns   a   task   to   a   group   of   students,   some   of   whom   are   higher   and   some   lower   on   any   of   the   status   characteristics,   these   general   expectations  come  into  play.  They  cause  a  kind  of  self-­‐fulfilling  prophecy  to   take  place  in  which  those  who  are  higher  status  come  to  hold  high  rank  in  the   status  order”  (1986,  pg.  28).     I  witnessed  this  in  the  observation;  my  white  males  seemed  to  do  most  of  the  work   because  they  believed  they  could  do  it  quicker  and  better  than  the  rest.  I  needed  to   take  a  few  steps  back  and  create  groundwork  so  that  the  classroom  could  be  more   successful  and  group  work  could  be  more  equitable.     Preparing  Students  for  Cooperative  Groups       "If   we   expect   students   to   work   together,   we   must   teach   them   social   skills   just   as   purposefully  and  precisely  as  we  teach  them  academic  skills"  (Ostlund,  1992,  p.  32).     Through   my   initial   struggles   of   creating   equity   amongst   voices   in   both   small   and   whole  group  experiences  I’ve  learned  that  you  can’t  just  throw  kids  in  and  hope  for   the   best.   They   need   structured   practice   and   time   to   internalize   norms   revolved   around   the   task   at   hand.   Within   group   work   there   are   different   norms   involved   that   are   not   used   in   many   traditional   classrooms,   therefore   they   needed   to   be   taught   before  we  could  begin.  Cohen  writes:   “Students   are   responsible   not   only   for   their   own   behavior   but   for   group   behavior   and   for   the   product   of   group   efforts.   Instead   of   listening   to   the   teacher,   they   must   learn   to   listen   to   other   students.   In   order   for   the   group   to   work   smoothly   they   must   learn   to   ask   for   other   people’s   opinion,   to   give  

other  people  a  chance  to  talk,  and  to  make  brief,  sensible  contributions  to  the   group  effort”  (1986  pg.  35).     I   recognized   the   norms   and   skills   needed   for   my   students   to   be   successful   in   our   typical   group   work:   learning   to   be   responsive   to   the   needs   of   the   group,   helping   others  answering  questions  and  careful  listening.  When  referring  to  helping  others,  I   wanted   to   move   away   from   what   we   typically   see   from   kids,   which   is   helping   by   doing  the  task  for  the  other  person.  Instead,  I  wanted  them  to  tell  and  show  others   how   to   do   things   for   themselves.   In   terms   of   answering   questions,   instead   of   having   kids   tell   the   “right   answer,”   I   wanted   my   students   to   learn   to   give   explanations.   The   following  exercises  and  games  to  teach  the  above  skills  are  all  taken  from  Elizabeth   Cohen’s,  Designing  Groupwork  Strategies  for  the  Heterogeneous  Classroom.       Broken  Circles:  Learning  to  Be  Responsive  to  the  Needs  of  the  Group       Broken   Circles   was   a   puzzle   game   to   teach   students   to   acknowledge   problems   experienced   by   peers,   and   to   feel   responsible   for   helping   them   for   the   sake   of   the   group  product.  The  circle  puzzles  cannot  be  solved  unless  group  members  become   aware   of   the   problems   other   members   in   their   group   are   experiencing   and   are   willing  to  give  away  their  pieces  of  the  puzzle  in  order  to  attain  the  group  goal.     I  drew  popsicle  sticks  to  create  heterogeneous  groups  of  four  students.  Each  student   was   given   an   envelope   with   two   or   three   pieces   different   pieces   to   a   circle.   The   goal   was  for  each  person  in  the  group  to  put  together  a  complete  circle.  In  order  for  this   goal  to  be  reached,  there  must  be  some  exchange  of  pieces.  Players  are  not  allowed   to  talk  or  to  take  pieces  from  someone  else’s  envelope.  The  only  way  that  members   are  allowed  to  receive  a  piece  they  need  is  if  another  player  gives  it  to  them.       The  rules  were:   1. No talking 2. No pointing or signaling to other players with your hands in anyway. 3. Each player must put together their own circle-no one else may show a player how to do it or do it for them. 4. This is a giving game. You many not take a piece for another player, but you may give your pieces, one at a time, to any other member of your group. You may not place a piece in another person’s puzzle, instead hand the piece to the other player or place it beside their other pieces.   The  game  was  not  finished  until  each  person  at  the  table  had  a  complete  circle.      

Because   there   was   no   speaking,   there   was   no   dialog   to   transcribe,   but   I   can   say   that   there   were   obvious   challenges   present.   Students   had   a   difficult   time   not   pointing   or   grunting   to   get   the   attention   from   people   in   their   group.   Also,   the   same   boys   that   tend   to   dominate   discussions   also   tried   to   dominate   the   game.   They   had   a   really   hard  time  not  grabbing  other  players’  pieces  and  completing  the  puzzles  of  people  in   their   group.   I   needed   to   come   by   these   groups   and   remind   them   of   the   rules.   I   could   tell  that  one  boy  got  frustrated  from  my  redirection  and  his  once  eagerness  to  have   his  group  become  the  “winners”  turned  into  annoyance.  He  sulked  in  his  chair  until   time  was  up.       According  to  Cohen  (1986)  this  is  one  of  a  few  common  dilemmas  typically  found  in   group   work.   The   children   that   were   trying   to   dominate   the   games   were   all   upper   class,   white   males.   Perhaps   the   constant   issues   I’m   having   with   these   boys   dominating   our   whole   group   discussions   and   small   group   work   is   due   to   societal   status.   Cohen   writes,   “In   the   society   at   large   there   are   status   distinctions   made   on   the   basis   of   social   class,   race,   ethnic   group,   and   sex.   These   are   general   social   rankings  on  which  most  people  agree  that  it  is  better  to  be  of  a  higher  social  class,   white,   and   male   than   it   is   to   be   of   a   lower   social   class,   black   or   brown,   or   female”   (1986,   pg.   26).   In   addition   to   their   social   status   of   being   white   males,   they   have   higher   academic   status   because   they   are   well   known   in   the   classroom   as   being   strong  readers  and  good  at  math,  and  appear  to  be  more  “popular”  amongst  peers,   which   links   them   to   higher   peer   status.   All   of   these   status   dilemmas   have   the   power   to  affect  what  happens  and  who  contributes  more  within  group  work.       Equally   important   to   the   actual   experience   was   the   discussion   that   followed.   I   wanted   students   to   arrive   at   the   important   insights   that   the   success   of   the   group   depended   on   everyone’s   effort   and   cooperation.   I   began   the   discussion   with   the   flowing  question,  “What  do  you  think  this  game  was  all  about?”     Putting  circles  together!   Math!     Fractions!   How  many  ways  you  can  put  a  circle  together?     Hmmm…I   changed   my   approach   to   get   more   specific   feedback   on   working   as   a   group,   “What   did   you   do   in   your   group   that   helped   you   to   be   successful   in   completing  all  four  circles?     Parker:  “When  someone  had  a  missing  piece  that  we  needed  they  gave  it  to  us.”     Mitchell:  “In  my  group  Angel  didn’t  share.”    

Angel:  “But,  I  had  a  full  circle.”   Maddy:   “That   happened   in   our   group,   but   if   you   switched   pieces   with   everyone,   everyone  somehow  still  got  a  circle.”     Kate:  “I  think  this  game  is  about  sharing.”   Me:  “Why  do  you  think  that?”   Kate:   “Because   if   you   didn’t   share   with   everyone   in   your   group,   than   you   couldn’t   win.”   Me:  “How  did  you  know  in  your  group  what  pieces  to  share  with  whom?”   Kate:   “You   had   to   pay   attention   to   what   everyone’s   puzzles   were   and   what   piece   they  needed.”     Me:  “Do  you  think  it’s  important  when  your  working  in  groups  to  pay  attention  to   what  each  person  is  doing  and  help  with  something  they  may  need?”   Several  kids:  “Yeah.”   Me:   “Give   me   a   thumbs   up   if   what   Kate   discovered   with   her   group   seems   really   important.”   Unanimously  every  thumb  in  the  class  went  up.       Master  Designer:  Learning  to  Explain,  ask  Questions  and  Give  Good  Answers     The   following   day   I   put   kids   in   new   groups,   this   time   with   five   members.   We   played   a  new  game  called  Master  Designer.  The  object  of  this  game  was  for  each  player  to   replicate  a  design  created  with  shapes  by  the  master  designer.  What  made  this  game   challenging  was  that  spatial  dividers  were  up  so  they  could  not  see  what  the  other   members  of  the  group  were  doing  or  the  design  of  the  master;  they  could  only  ask   questions   to   the   master   designer.   This   created   an   opportunity   for   two   important   behaviors.  First,  students  must  do  things  for  themselves  and  ask  specific  questions  to   lead   them   to   their   own   solution.   Second,   the   group   was   dependent   on   the   master   designer,   as   they   must   explain   by   telling   how   it   should   be   done.   Again,   the   more   specific  and  detailed  the  designer  could  be,  the  better.  When  a  member  of  the  group   felt   that   they   had   figured   out   the   master   design   and   the   designer   had   checked   the   solution,   that   player   could   then   help   others   in   the   group   by   explaining   how   (demonstrating   that   everyone   helps).   Once   everyone   had   completed   the   correct   design,  a  new  student  could  take  on  the  role  as  the  master  designer.  The  shapes  each   child  was  given  were:    

    One  person  in  the  group  of  five  was  always  the  observer.  The  observer  checked  off   anytime  they  saw  the  following  positive  behaviors:     Explain  by  telling  how   Everybody  helps     The  observer  should  also  be  able  to  give  a  few  specific,  good  examples  of  what  was   seen  and  report  out  to  the  group  at  the  end  of  the  round.       We   played   the   game   once   without   the   observer,   so   that   the   kids   could   really   understand  and  experience  the  game  and  get  a  grasp  on  what  the  target  behaviors   are   for   this   particular   game.   After   having   a   discussion   following   their   first   game,   I   added  an  observer  to  look  for  the  specific  behaviors  of  explaining  by  telling  how  and   everybody   helps.   I   gave   the   master   designer   tangram   pictures   to   recreate,   so   that   they   weren’t   completely   obscure   designs.   This   seemed   to   eliminate   the   issue   of   having  too  difficult  of  designs  and  to  keep  the  focus  on  my  primary  goal,  which  was   to  get  the  kids  talking,  and  asking  questions  with  great  detail.       The   kids   had   such   a   great   time   with   this!   I   loved   that   it   was   challenging,   yet   it   provided   an   opportunity   for   everyone   to   be   successful,   not   just   the   kids   that   read   well   and   typically   do   well   in   math.   This   game   united   the   five   kids   to   a   common   goal.   If  someone  wasn’t  communicating  well,  there  was  another  member  of  the  group  to   try  to  become  that  much  clearer  and  more  detailed  in  what  they  were  describing.  An   example   I   overheard   from   one   group   trying   to   replicate   the   following   master   design   was:  

  In  the  below  dialogue,  please  note  that  Kate  was  the  master  designer.     Kate:  “Put  the  square  down.  Put  one  of  the  small  triangles  so  that  short  side  of  the   triangle  is  touching  the  square.”   Angel:  “On  the  top?”   Kate:   “Oh,   no,   no,   sorry.   Put   the   triangle   on   the   right   side   of   the   square   so   that   it   makes  a  long  flat  top  and  there  is  a  point  sticking  out  to  the  right.”   Sofia:   “So   it   looks   like   this   (she   slants   her   arm   up   imitating   the   correct   placement   of   the  triangle.”   Kate:  “Yes,  exactly!”  (She  looks  towards  me)  “This  is  hard!”     Angel:  “I  like  it!”     Jed:  “It’s  like  if  you  were  going  to  put  two  triangles  together  to  make  a  square  and   you  take  away  the  bottom  triangle.”     Mitchell:  “Oh,  I  get  it  now!”     Me:  “Great  job  working  together!  You  guys  just  modeled  great  explanations  and  that   everybody  helps.  I’m  glad  you  guys  are  having  fun!”       This   game   took   a   long   time   to   complete,   but   none   of   the   students   displayed   frustration  or  bossiness.  There  was  a  presence  of  “play”  amongst  the  class,  perhaps   because   it   simply   seemed   like   a   shape   game.   Nobody   seemed   to   dominate   his   or   her   group,   and   I   believe   this   was   because   this   activity   didn’t   seem   to   be   linked   to   academic   ability.   At   the   same   time   it   challenged   each   person,   either   in   the   actual   articulation   of   manipulating   the   shapes   or   their  listening  and  speaking  skills.   As   you   can   see   from   the   dialog   above,   Jed   and   Mitchell,   typically   boys   who   need   to   step   back,   built   upon   others   in   the   group   to   find   logic   in   the   original   explanation.   I   wondered  why  Mitchell  was  able  to  keep  control  of  himself  more  in  this  game  than   the  broken  circles  game.       Just   as   in   Broken   Circles,   the   discussion   following   this   game   was   an   important   opportunity   for   students   to   reflect   on   new   behaviors.   We   began   our   whole   group   discussion   with   each   child   having   four   tickets   and   sitting   in   a   circle   with   a  

 

conversation   map   displayed   for   each   child   to   see.   This   had   proven   so   successful   when   experimenting   with   Shared   Inquiry   Circles   that   it   had   become   a   norm   in   all   classroom  discussions.       Me:  “You  all  seemed  to  have  a  great  time  playing  Master  Designer.  What  seemed  to   change  from  the  first  explanations  that  the  Master  Designer  gave  to  the  explanations   at  the  end  of  the  game?”     Kate:  “It  was  really  hard  to  tell  them  where  to  put  their  pieces!”   Angel:  “Yeah,  but  at  the  end  everybody  could  help  each  other  and  it  got  easier.”   Me:  “Why  do  you  think  that  it  got  easier  when  other  people  helped?”   Parker:  “Like  when  someone  didn’t  explain  it  good,  maybe  someone  else  could.”   Me:  “What  do  you  mean,  good?”   Parker:  “Like  with  lots  of  details.  Do  I  have  to  give  you  a  ticket  for  that?”   Me:  (laughing)  “No,  you  don’t  need  to  because  I  asked  you  expand  on  what  you  said,   explain  with  more  details.”  (smile)   Parker:  (laughing)  “I  get  it.”   Maddy:   “It’s   like   we   all   need   to   work   on   talking   with   more   description,   so   things   are   clearer  for  whoever  is  listening.”     Me:  “Exactly!  When  would  this  be  helpful  when  you’re  working  in  a  small  group?”   Diana:  “Maybe  when  you  help  someone  you  can  explain  it  better?”   Mitchell:   “I’d   like   to   piggyback   on   what   Diana  said.   We   help   someone   instead   of   just   giving  them  an  answer.”   Jed:   “I   agree   with   Mitchell   and   Diana,   and   also   maybe   if   you   don’t   get   it   when   one   person  helps  you  can  ask  someone  else.”     The  fact  that  Mitchell  was  building  off  of  someone  else’s  idea  spoke  volumes  to  me!   Not  only  did  he  seem  to  learn  why  we  needed  to  explain  our  reasoning,  rather  than   just   giving   an   answer,   but   more   importantly   he   was   carefully   listening   to   his   classmates  and  thinking  about  their  ideas  as  he  formed  his  own.         Reintroducing  Group  Work  with  Established  Norms       Now  that  the  students  had  explicit  exposure  to  small  group  norms  –  learning  to  be   responsive  to  the  needs  of  the  group,  learning  to  help  and  explain,  asking  questions   and   giving   good   answers   –   I   was   ready   to   reintroduce   the   students   to   regular   group   work.   The   above   activities   were   extremely   helpful   in   getting   kids   to   recognize   the   power  and  importance  of  working  together,  but  I  knew  that  it  would  be  easy  for  kids   to  fall  back  into  their  old  ways.  I  considered  the  training  period  to  be  just  beginning.   In  the  Master  Designer  activity,  the  use  of  an  observer  seemed  particularly  helpful  in  

monitoring   the   group   and   more   significantly,   celebrating   when   the   norms   were   present.  I  decided  there  would  be  an  observer  in  each  group  moving  forward.       I   created   a   simple   check   off   sheet   for   the   observer   to   record   the   new   behaviors   in   their  group  when  they  saw  them  (Appendix  D):     Group  Names:_________________________________________________     Explain  by  telling  how       Everybody  helps         What   are   some   specific   things   you   saw   that   you   want   to   celebrate?_____________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________       I  also  knew  that  I  wanted  the  observer  to  check  in  with  the  group  about  every  five   minutes,   so   the   group   could   remain   focused   on   the   equal   importance   of   demonstrating  these  behaviors  and  the  actual  task  at  hand.  By  rotating  the  observer   so  that  all  students  got  to  play  this  role,  I  hoped  that  the  students  would  hold  each   other   accountable   for   their   behavior.   I   also   thought   this   would   help   students   internalize   the   norms,   rather   than   the   typical   teacher   reinforcement   that   students   are  used  to.       When   choosing   a   task   for   effective   group   work,   Cohen   (1986)   suggests   that   the   task   have  the  following  qualities:     -­‐Has  more  than  one  answer  or  more  than  one  way  to  solve  the  problem   -­‐Is  intrinsically  interesting  and  rewarding   -­‐Allows  different  students  to  make  different  contributions   -­‐Uses  multimedia   -­‐Involves  sight,  sound,  and  touch   -­‐Requires  a  variety  of  skills  and  behaviors   -­‐Requires  reading  and  writing   -­‐Is  challenging                

Our   class   had   been   studying   the   effects   on   the   environment   from   importing   and   exporting  goods,  specifically  Hershey  Kisses.  Kids  needed  to  trace  the  different  parts   necessary   to   make   a   Hershey   Kiss   (cocoa   beans,   sugar   cane,   wood   pulp   and   aluminum)   from   their   origin,   to   the   Hershey   Factory,   then   to   our   homes.   They   were   to   create   a   product   chain   using   construction   paper,   markers,   colored   pencils   and   their  iPads.  I  grouped  students  heterogeneously  in  groups  of  four,  with  one  person   at   all   times   being   an   observer.   The   groups   were   spread   out   within   the   classroom   with  ample  workspace,  enough  materials,  exemplar  examples  and  the  day’s  goals.       There   was   definitely   a   more   serious   tone   at   the   beginning,   primarily   from   the   person  taking  on  the  role  of  the  observer.  I  noticed  that  they  all  seemed  to  sit  a  little   straighter   and   wanted   to   get   started   right   away.   I   had   to   remind   students   that   as   an   observer   their   job   was   to   watch   and   listen   very   carefully.   Other   members   of   the   group  were  easily  distracted  by  the  observer  and  were  very  curious  when  a  check   mark   or   something   was   written,   but   the   novelty   of   this   seemed   to   wear   off   by   the   time  the  fourth  person  became  an  observer.  About  every  five  minutes  I  stopped  the   class   and   allowed   two   minutes   for   the   observer   to   report   out   to   their   group.   After   the   two   minutes,   the   observer   passed   the   record   sheet   to   the   person   sitting   clockwise  from  them,  who  then  took  over  the  role.      

 

 

  Above   you   can   see   two   different   examples   from   different   observers   in   two   different   groups.   I   was   happy   that   they   found   positive   behaviors   with   the   new   small   group   norms   that   we’d   been   trying   to   establish.   All   of   these   opportunities   were   not   only   reinforcing   the   norms   and   emphasizing   their   importance,   but   also   increased   classroom  community.  The  kids  seemed  to  love  this  observer  role  and  took  their  job   very   seriously.   This   highlighted   for   me   that   kids   needed   roles   within   group   work,   clear  and  realistic  goals  and  specific  jobs  to  accomplish  within  the  allotted  time.       Next  Steps  for  Small  Group  Work       As   the   students   continued   to   internalize   the   behavioral   norms   I   changed   the   observer   role   to   something   slightly   similar,   the   Encourager.   I   was   ready   to   assign   each  child  within  the  group  a  specific  role,  with  specific  jobs.  If  I  felt  that  behaviors   and  attitudes  were  slipping,  I  would  bring  back  the  observer  role  to  refocus  on  the   norms.  Cohen  writes,       “[Group   roles]   is   one   of   the   most   efficient   methods   of   designing   a   smooth-­‐ functioning  and  productive  group.  These  methods  reduce  problems  of  one  or   more   members’   dominating   the   group.   In   groups   where   members   have   different   roles   and   jobs   to   do,   they   feel   very   satisfied   with   their   part   in   the   group  process”  (1986,  pg.  75).     To  this  end,  I  introduced  four  roles:     Encourager:  Someone  who  praises  positive  behaviors  and  sees  to  it  that  everyone   gets  the  help  they  need.  Also  helps  with  clean  up.    

 

Checker:   Makes   sure   that   everyone   has   completed   their   work   and   fulfilled   their   job   role.  Also  helps  with  clean  up.     Monitor  -­‐  This  person  keeps  track  of  time  and  keeps  the  group  on  task.  This  person   also  sees  to  it  that  the  group  has  everything  it  needs.  Also  helps  with  clean  up.       Reporter:   This   person   should   be   ready   to   summarize   the   group's   progress   and   findings.  Also  helps  with  clean  up.       These   roles   where   written   on   place   cards   in   front   of   each   worker,   to   serve   as   a   constant  reminder  of  what  their  various  positions  were.  After  students  knew  their   role  and  responsibilities  for  themselves  and  the  others  in  their  group,  they  needed   to   work   together   to   create   a   list   of   goals   for   their   designated   work   time.   The   students  were  still  completing  their  product  chain  projects  as  explained  above.       I   decided   to   revisit   my   initial   observation   chart   and   do   a   comparison   of   the   same   students   two   months   after   explicit   work   on   establishing   conversational   norms   within  whole  group  and  small  group  settings.  You  will  notice  that  the  group  was  no   longer  comprised  of  six  students,  but  reduced  down  to  four.  Along  with  their  gender   and  ethnicity  their  group  role  is  displayed.  I  put  a  lot  of  thought  into  the  dynamics  of   the  group  and  chose  what  I  felt  would  be  the  best-­‐fit  roles  for  each  student.  I  chose   the  Hispanic  boy  to  be  the  encourager  because  of  his  positive  attitude,  awareness  to   detail   and   confidence.   I   chose   the   white   boy   to   be   the   checker   in   hopes   that   he   would   stay   mindful   of   the   needs   of   others   within   the   group.   To   keep   the   Hispanic   girl   active   within   the   work   and   discussion   I   gave   her   the   role   of   reporter.   The   White   girl   had   shown   obvious   strengths   in   creating   equity   between   participation   of   members   of   the   group   and   keeping   everyone   on   task,   so   she   fit   naturally   into   the   role   of   monitor.   I   also   added   the   small   group   norms   of   everybody   helps   and   explaining  by  telling.       Observation  #2  of  Group  Norms       Encourager   Checker   Reporter   Monitor   Hispanic  Boy   White   Hispanic  Girl   White  Girl   Boy   Eye  Contact  to   24   22   27   29   the  Speaker   Clarifying   4   7   3   6   Questions  

Probing         2   Questions   Inviting   5   4     8   Someone  In   Everybody   7   11   5   9   Helps   Explain   6   7     5   by  Telling       As  you  can  see  there  was  a  lot  more  equity  amongst  the  group.  The  white  students   still  dominated,  but  as  you  can  see  as  questions  were  posed,  three  of  four  students   (all,  except  my  Hispanic  girl)  made  efforts  to  explain.  The  kids  seemed  to  all  make   efforts   to   try   to   explain   things   in   different   ways,   and   it   had   been   exciting   to   see.   I   was   also   pleased   to   see   that   the   Hispanic   girl   had   helped   with   her   share   of   the   work   and  responded  receptively  to  the  other  students  inviting  her  into  the  conversation.   Overall   I   knew   we   were   making   positive   steps   to   increasing   participation   within   peer  discussions.