Skip to main content

Math Expert Groups, Take #1

Slicing every day in March!!

Today we did expert groups in math for approximately 20 minutes.
It was my first attempt at organizing students into self-selected groups with one student responsible for teaching the rest of the group a particular math skill.

First, I asked my students to think of something in math they felt comfortable teaching someone else. Then, they wrote this down on a sticky note. Next, I collected the sticky notes and selected four students to lead four different groups. Finally, my students sorted themselves into groups by math topic.

At first, my students were reluctant to write down something in math they felt they could teach their classmates. They were reluctant to play along with me because their roles were not clear, even though I had prefaced this activity by saying that we were going to experiment with a new structure. In other words, we were bound to make mistakes and flounder our way through this event. Afterwards, we would talk about the next iteration of this activity.

Some students had to think really hard before deciding what they could teach someone else. In fact, one girl never wrote anything down on her sticky note.

Afterwards, I randomly selected four students to be the "teachers" and I asked the rest of the class to join a group of their choice.

And, off they went!

At first, I tried to listen in to each group and participate as appropriate.
But, after a while, one group asked me to answer some of their questions.
In retrospect, maybe I should have declined their invitation and left them alone to work things out for themselves.

After 20 minutes, I stopped the class and asked everyone how this first round of "expert groups" had gone. There was lukewarm support for what we did. I think they'd never been asked to do something like this before. They weren't sure what they were supposed to do, especially the "teachers".

Nevertheless, I think there's potential in repeating this activity, but with more structure. For example, instead of having one child in each group play the teacher, she or he could serve as the group leader. The group leader would be responsible for getting things going, but everyone would contribute to the group's understanding and skill base around a topic.

Still thinking about this, but if you've done something similar I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section. Thanks in advance!



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Mini Lessons

Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start …

A Confession

I have a confession to make.

I want to write a book. 
A professional book. 
I think I have a lot to say. 
I think others could benefit from my experience.
After all, I have been an educator for over 30 years.

But, what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?
What new knowledge could I add to the table?
Who would even bother to read what I have to say?

These are questions borne of fear.
Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of not being able to complete such a daunting project. 
(At least, that's what it feels like to me right now.)
Fear that I won't make time.
Fear that I'll run out of time.

But, over the last couple of days, I've gotten some encouraging words of support from the Innovative Teaching Academy - 
#ITA17 Facebook group. 

You can do it!Write for yourself.
But the message that is propelling me forward is this one: 
It doesn't matter how many times something has been said...each time someone else says it, new people hear it...and that's where you make the d…

Questions

Today's post is short and sweet because I just got back from a night of playing Bunko with friends. 

I share some questions I'm grappling with in my classroom. 

No answers. 

Just questions.

(1) What purpose do math stations serve in my classroom?

(2) How can I continue to engage writers without overwhelming them or me?

(3) How can I determine if my tangled readers are learning to be better readers from the books they choose to read?

(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?

As I find responses and solutions to these issues, I will post some ideas on my blog.

Any thoughts are more than welcomed!