Cooperative Learning Classroom Experiences
SUMMER 2011 COOPERATIVE LEARNING
EDCI 580: June 27-July 7, 2011 (3 graduate credits)
Welcome to the Cooperative Learning (CL) site where teachers who have participated in the CL seminars in the past can share their classroom experiences with these strategies. We want to know about lessons in which you have incorporated CL. How did it go? What will you do the same or differently next time?
Send your experiences to Sandy Balli at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will have them posted to the site. Also send me your questions and comments. I will answer your questions and others can send me their answers to post to the site as well. Note the accordion menu that we are using for ease of navigation. Just click on a name to read the experience or click on questions and comments for dialog about CL issues. Please let me know if you have suggestions for the site. We are starting out with a simple format and it will evolve from there.
When using Cooperative Learning, the most important thing to remember is PIGS FACE. Look it up in your book and notes for a reminder of this acronym. You are successful and talented teachers on the front lines in making a difference in the lives and education of students.
Tell your colleagues about the 2011 summer CL class!
Sandy Balli - La Sierra University: National Summit on Adventist Education
On Oct. 22, 2010, I chaired a paper presentation session held at the National Summit on Adventist Education here at La Sierra University.
I decided to use the Informal Cooperative Learning strategy. There were about 200 people there and I knew that this group had been through many presentations at the Summit prior to this paper session. The attendees had little opportunity to process or share their thoughts with each other.
I held the seven presenters to 10 minutes each. They each presented their best ideas and research on improving Seventh-day Adventist education. After each presentation, I asked the audience to turn to their “process partner” (who they chose at the beginning of the session). They were given two minutes to discuss the following:
- Summarize the most interesting idea from the paper presentation.
- Discuss the implications of the idea for their classroom or school.
This worked great. It kept the audience engaged and kept the session lively. Informal Cooperative Learning is a great way to break up lecture or direct instruction.
My 27 first graders are benefiting from your CL class this last summer. I have put it into practice and I see the joy in their faces and their enthusiasm as they share their learning with their classmates.
I went on a mission trip during the last week of June. Our group went to the Navajo Indian reservation
in Arizona. One of my assignments was to discuss the importance of rest (the "R" in NEWSTART).
All of the other presenters used the lecture method with minimal visual aids. It was a very warm day, no air-conditioning, and people were dozing off. I was in trouble because I too was going to go with the lecture method with a few visual aids. But then it dawned on me.....Cooperative Learning!
When it was my turn, I knew I had to use CL - to get the people moving and bring back their interest. I was ill-prepared, but this is what I did:
I paired the audience and had them share experiences of when they had experienced a "lack of rest" and why rest would be beneficial. After a few minutes, they paired with someone else and told them what they had learned. Then, everyone had a chance to share with the whole group. That woke them up!
Then I spoke about hours of sleep, relaxing vs. non-relaxing activities, God's rest, and rest seen in nature. They were receptive to what I said. I gave them a chance to turn to their seatmate and rephrase what I said.
Everyone was engaged, they learned something new, and I hardly did any talking.
I can't wait to use CL this upcoming school year...but I'll remember to start with teaching Social Skills first!
First the fun - I went to the fabric store and the first thing I found was a pig hat. I bought it. My younger students would pick it up and wear it, keeping PIGS FACE discussions alive.I put my kids in to two groups. One was a peer group where they meet with others in their own grade. The second group has a "student leader" as an older student heads up the list. It has worked well so far.
There is no doubt that I appreciated the learning experience when we gathered together. Now I manage to use some basic CL skills in my ELS class. Because the limit of time and other conditions, I was not allowed to apply some essential elements of CL. Basically, what I did was putting students into groups, monitoring and helping as they needed. It helped. When they faced peers, they were not as nervous as they face the teacher, me. Since most of them are adults, so their basic social skills are fine (at least in class I guess ;-).
One thing that impressed me was that when I taught the vowel /æ/, a student of mine couldn't pronounce it no matter how, even though I taught her many ways to do it in person. However, I grouped them into two or three, and I started to circulate. To my surprise, when I got back to her group, she was able to pronounce the sound correctly. It was almost impossible. I don't know why, but to my knowledge, it's not easy to change one's pronunciation in a short time. Perhaps it was that her fear or whatever that hampered her learning was removed.
Perhaps CL was not the sole reason that made "the miracle" happen, but I do believe that CL must have done something good to the student :).
This particular experience happened with my 7th grade math class. They were particularly a difficult class to deal with. One of the worst classes I had in years. They took to the CL experience really well. They formed base groups, had their own base group folders and buckets, etc. Once we had implemented the CL basics, they began forming base and whole group goals. It took them a little while to understand the importance of being responsible for doing homework and studying for quizzes and tesst. They decided to shoot for a class goal of 90% class averageon the next math test. 90% is in the B range, but would be a major achievement for them if this was accomplished. They ended up with a 93% class average. I don't remember what their reward was though. I suppose their reward was the feeling of confidence and pride.
Homework was another issue. So many of those students didn't have any structure or parental involvement at home, so they struggled to find the motivation to complete homework. This took a long time to overcome because they had to find a new sense of responsibility for keeping their base groups in "good standing." After a period of time, there was 100% homework retention. Granted, this 100% didn't last the entire school year, but there was certainly more homework coming in than there had been in the past. They really got into Positive Interdependence and the base groups became quite competitive against one another; hence the increase in submitted homework. We continued to have success throughout that school year.
Perhaps the best thing for me was when parents would make comments like "I've never seen Johnny so eager to get his homework done", or "I've never seen Johnny study so much or do so well on a test." That's when I knew that all the effort and frustration in getting CL started was worth it.
I really enjoyed our class this past summer. Then I went to a workshop on Pathways and was totally bored because of the lecture method, and vowed that I would not bore my students like that, so I decided to use the Cooperative Learning method. I set up all my classes with base groups. The students use the jigsaw method often. However, it does take a lot of time if the pairs learn the information, and then teach another partner before teaching their group.
I am not so diligent about celebrating. We do it when I remember, or when the class reminds me. The students do set individual goals, but I see I should probably have them set group goals for homework and tests. We have done some reflection on test performance, namely, how they prepared for a test. Then the students completed a Learning Style questionnaire to determine their individual learning style and from that determine how they should study for the next test.
I struggle with having the students help each other except in class. The group mentality is difficult to engender. They don't mind helping their friends, but not their base group members. It seems they haven't felt the need to help them, so I need to think of a way to reward them for that. Maybe give them points according to how much of their GROUP goal they met.
I found that its less time consuming to turn the work into me at the beginning of the class rather than to the Base folder as the students get immediate feedback as to the status of their work.
If the group members are less excited about helping their base group, then the problem is there needs to be more group celebrations and reflections. Also, do more “non-content” related base group discussions like we did at the beginning of each class period. Remember when we talked about things like “where you would like to go on a trip if you could go anywhere?” or, “would you like to be the best player on the worst sports team or the worst player on the best team and why?” Figure out some fun questions like that that are age appropriate (I forgot what age/grade level that you are working with). It works well to do a lot of cohesive building at the beginning of the school year – with non-threatening discussions. Your goal is to get the base group members to really care about each other’s learning.
Also, when using the jigsaw, group members don’t always have to practice teaching another partner before teaching their group – only if there is time. Just have preparation partners and then teaching to the group.