Successful Group Interaction in a Collaborative Lesson
When teachers set up collaborative lessons, they have to account for some noise in the classroom from group interaction. Students will need to talk about their tasks and plans. In addition, there will be some movement to get supplies and to make visual aids or art pieces.
Some teachers like students in desks working quietly. If this is the type of classroom teachers aspire to have, then they will count their collaborative lesson as a failure. However, crazy and chaotic should not describe the activity.
Talking and Movement during Collaborative Lessons
Students will need to talk to be collaborative. The question is, is it just "gossip" talking or productive "work" talking? I like to hear productive noise because students learn how to work together, and they learn how to problem solve. However, the noise should never bother the teacher next door, draw the principal to your door, or give you a headache. Productive "working" noise is usually consta nt with some student movement in a classroom but should not include high decibels.
If students are running, poking, yelling or sitting in a group talking about the fight in the hallway during the bell change, then your collaborative lesson is not working. Try these tips to keep students working and learning.
Tips for Successful Collaborative Lessons
Tip #1: Give every student a role or a specific task to manage for the collaborative activity. If a student thinks he or she can sit and do nothing while others do all the work, the student will do just that.
Sample roles or tasks for a collaborative activity:
- group leader
- art leader
- research leader
- presentation leader
- media leader
- note manager
- task & time manager
- materials manager
Tip #2: Groups should never be more than four or six students. Actually, four seems to be a magic number in my classroom. In smaller groups, students can be held more accountable.
Tip #3: Give students a project sheet that explains the tasks in details. If students know exactly what to do, they not become overwhelmed and become disruptive.
Tip #4: Provide a model for the finished product. If students can see what they are to aspire to do, they will produce better products.
Tip #5: Have a catch phrase to remind students that they are getting too loud. Teachers can say "Noise level" and that will be a cue to the students talk quieter. If students are having a difficult time keeping the noise down, the teacher can have a three-strikes-you're-out rule. If the teacher has to tell the students to tone down the noise more than three times, the class time to work on the project is over. All work not completed will have to be done as homework.
Tip #5: Assess students using a rubric. The rubric should give criteria and ideas on how to receive a good grade. This allows students to know how to be successful.
Collaborative activities demand to have group interaction. If the activities are well structured and the behavior expectations are set, the lesson should be a success.