Today was absolutely brilliant!
Some background first: over break, I read Quiet and this reminded me how important it is to able to work alone.
I had the expectation that students must be able to work alone, I spoke about it in terms of their study habits, and emphasized how quizzing/testing is a solitary endeavor. However, time in class definitely emphasized working in groups.
So, if I buy into the group being ‘smarter’ than an individual, then each member has to be able to contribute, each individual has to know something. I realized I had failed to effectively use the power of collaboration because I had failed to practice my students’ skills of working alone.
I realize I’m a late bloomer and am sure most others already knew this, but it was quite an epiphany for me. Thus, bringing us to today.
On previous Day One’s, I’ve tried a variety of activities (with various levels of success), ultimately reverting to having the students create blog, diigo, Dropbox, etc. accounts as well as register with the UT homework service. Just using the first day to take care of business.
I wanted (needed) this semester to be different. With Quiet still reverberating in my mind, I read a twitter exchange about a ‘mystery cube.’ Curious, I started my search and read this post and followed the link to this post which referenced the subversive lab groups. [Confession: I had tried the subversive lab groups in the past, but, as previously written, booming success isn’t the phrase I would have used.]
I combined and modified all of this into today . As students walked through the door, I handed them all 24 cards from the subversive lab groups. After I spread them around the room so they were sitting alone, I told them to organize the cards; only when they finished, did I put them in groups. The group had to come to consensus on categories and the cards included as well as be able to justify why. After a bit, we discussed similarities and differences between each person, modifications made within the group, and the cards that posed the greatest issues as they organized and why. [One group argued that Florida & California should be with the Disney characters.]
After finishing the discussion, we moved to the cube on the floor. I used the modified cube and had the students write on a piece of paper individually what number was on the bottom and why. After they all finished, I put them in different groups and gave them one rule: each person had to give their answer & reason before any discussion could commence. After getting a consensus within each group and sharing between groups, I gave them my answer and reasoning. In both classes, my answer was shot down because of the process I shared – they found the inconsistency! It was awesome!
Most importantly to me, I think I was able to effectively emphasize and practice how this semester is going to be structured: work will be done individually before any work is done collaboratively.
Overall, the discussions for both activities were fruitful, engaging, and active; and I feel this is in part a result of focusing on the individual before the group. A practice I had lost sight of and am thrilled to have r-discovered.