Have you ever heard a comment similar to this in the work room or teachers' lounge?
"My principal wants me to differentiate. Why doesn't he/she differentiate, too?"
This conversation is usually referring to a change the administration is making based on something that is happening with a small percentage of the staff. If you are not part of the small percentage, you might feel resentful towards the small percentage, and irritated that your administrator didn't address the issue where it needed addressed - with the small group.
Reflection is a part of growing as a professional. I often mull over conversations like this and try to apply them to my job as a teacher so that I can continue to improve. Is there some part of my job that affects a small group of students that I apply to the entire group? If so, is this really fair or in their best interest? Or reverse that, is there something that I do that the fits best for the majority of my students but isn't the best fit for the small percentage of my students? How can I differentiate more so that my students needs are better met?
After one of these conversations about lack of differentiation on the management's part, which seems to be a frequent concern, I went back to my class and noticed that I had a cooperative group activity planned for later that day. So, I decided to try something new. I told my students that I was going to give them choices today when it came to our cooperative group lesson. I had my students get out a scratch piece of paper and write:
- Do you prefer to work alone or with a group? Answer yes or not
- If you like to work in groups, do you prefer groups of 2 or 3?
- If you prefer to work in groups, list the names of 3 classmates that you would like to have in your group. I cannot guarantee these will be your partner but I will try to match up groups as best as a I can.
Just like you have fellow colleagues who prefer to plan lessons and do his/her own thing, it worked the same way with my students. I had a small number who wanted to work alone. It wasn't that other students rejected these students. This is a simple matter of preference. Other students preferred working with a partner rather than a small group. When I matched my groups to my students' preferences, I had fewer discipline problems and more engaged students.
Do not always put your high ability students with your struggling students. It is not fair to the high ability students to be put in the role of tutor. They need to be paired with other students of similar ability so they can work like little spark plugs with each other. You will get complaints for their parents if you do it too often.
There are benefits for all of your students when you incorporate cooperative learning into your lessons. The best way I found to save time, respect our differences, and have cooperative groups is to have a mixture of groups that you use for different lessons.
You can make cooperative groups by subject or generic groups ahead of time so students can quickly get with their group or partner when it time for a cooperative activities. Sometimes your students that prefer to work alone will be allowed to work alone. Other times, these students will be in a group.
So, one group may be formed by students' preference from the buddy list (see below), another group may be formed by who you think would work best together, another group might be formed by academic level (low-middle ability) and (middle-high ability).
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Looking for more tips? Check out my Reading Pinterest board. Click on the picture below.
Fern has a few tips to share with you, too. Be sure to hop over to her blog!
Each week, Fern and I will share a teacher tip. We love to read teacher blogs and the latest teacher idea books and hope you do, too! Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for our latest tips. We hope you will share your ideas, too.
Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip. We will announce the winner on the following Tuesday's post.
Do you have a cooperative learning idea to share? Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip. You must leave your email address in order to win.
Looking for more ideas? Click on the pictures below.
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