"Students' memory is strengthened when they are provided with opportunities to teach the entire class, parents or small groups." (Tileston, 2004)
At the beginning of the year, we spend quite a bit of time learning how to learn with others. We do a lot quick small group and partner activities. I change who they work with daily in centers at the beginning of the year to help my kiddos get to know one another.
One of my favorite activities at the beginning of this year was a collaborative mural. I broke my kiddos into 2 groups and gave each group a large sheet of bulletin board paper. I put several cups of paint and brushes on the table and my only instructions were to share and to create the mural using circles.
Throughout the year, students have a partner on the carpet. This is their "turn and talk" partner. I don't change these partners often as long as they are well matched. This year they've been changed once; last year they were changed multiple times throughout the year. This partner is the person students turn to throughout lessons to "think-pair-share".
|Students worked in groups during our toy drive to advertise, collect and clean the toys.|
Something I would like to work on is being a little more flexible with grouping. I have a hard time letting students choose their own partners/groups. I allow them to choose during who they work with during "free choice centers" (play-based). I can see the benefit of students choosing their own groups sometimes. As we go into the end of the year, I plan to to have at least 1 project where students can choose their own groups. I'm hoping that with the structure up to this point in the year, they will be successful in this little adventure.
How do you encourage cooperative learning in your classroom? Do you choose the groups/partners or do your students choose themselves?