Monday, March 24, 2008

Collaborative Work Groups

I ran an interesting activity in class the other day. It started and evolved around this question: Why do students have to work independently on projects? I got to wondering that the other morning as I was getting ready for school. So, I thought, what the heck? Why not let them work on a routinely independent project collaboratively? It was a research based project, and what the kids needed to do was to find some information in three different areas to get them thinking about a novel we were about to start reading.

Typically, I would have had the kids research, finding facts related to the issues. Each fact had to be found in and corroborated by two different sources before it could be posted for the public or classmates to see. This time, though, I let them work in a group. Each group selected its own group leader, and once they started finding facts that answered the questions that I had posed, they were allowed to turn to their teammates and ask them to help them find the corroborating evidence.

The activity worked pretty smoothly, especially with one of the two groups I had going in the classroom. I heard them talking to each other, sharing facts and ideas they had found which they thought were relevant to the questions I had posed. Then, other students were quickly going on different search engines, logging on to our library resources, and visiting other websites to see if they could find that same piece of information listed someplace else. All the while, the project manager was keeping track of all the bibliographic entries and making sure that each piece of information posted to our SKRBL board had two citations to go with it.

Of course, the interactions going on in the activity were higher than when I had the students work on the activity independently. It was really incredible to hear their interactions, to listen to their teamwork, to see their teamwork and to see the results of what they came up with. In addition, the activity mirrored, to a slight extent, a project team like the students might have to work on when they begin the next phase of their life after high school.

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