The new common core standards set goals for our students in order to increase curriculum rigor, and challenge and prepare students for the global market economy in which we are a part of. These standards raise the educational bar for students, requiring teachers to push for those “Higher Order Thinking Skills”. These standards change what and how we teach our kids. One important factor is the push for more student collaboration.
I would like to take some time to explain what student collaboration looks like in my own classroom, and its purpose. In my room the students are grouped heterogeneously varying in academic level and ability. My students work in groups of threes on assigned tasks that cover the related content for the week. This method does not replace the actually teaching and instruction, but it is used to reinforce the learning.
The student rotations include a computer station rotation, where the student works on the computer completing an activity which reinforces the content. Teacher led rotation is a station in which the students work with me. During this time I am able to narrow in on skills that the students need to build. Another station is group math: during this station the students take turn as a facilitator to model their thinking. Lastly, math games is a station where the students play a game that also reinforces content.
I believe that students can help each other learn. Individual students will use their minds to find solutions to problems in ways that I would never imagine. Therefore, it’s important that my students have time to work collaboratively together, to think, and to share. In my classroom working collaboratively didn’t start magically, the students were taught about the importance of working together, then the rituals and routines for working together, and for working collaboratively. Students are also taught about the expectations for working in groups, roles, behavior, and the importance of sustaining a healthy learning environment.
Keep Students Engaged
My students work well collaboratively. I attribute the success that I am experiencing with collaboration to the following: students are engaged. When the students are engaged they take an active part in the learning process. Secondly, the students appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak openly with one another, they like coming together to solve problems. Finally, the students understand that there are standards they have to master; giving them a chance to work collaboratively helps them to differentiate practices, and to take charge of their learning.