Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Worksheets Don't Build Dendrites {Chapter 13}

Stephanie from Falling Into First is hosting Chapter 13, which is about Reciprocal Teaching and Cooperative Learning.

"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.

Both turned out very differently, but looking back, I can definitely see the personalities shine through.  In the "neon" group, the girls were dominant, whereas in the primary one, it was the boys.  There were an equal number of boys and girls in each group.

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.
Generally, when we do cooperative groups, particularly with project-based, these groups change with every project.  Sometimes students are grouped based on interest, other times personality.  I try to have a "high", a "middle" and a "low" in each group.  I like making the groups mixed ability because I feel as though it gives them more of a chance to learn from one another.  Everyone has different life experiences and different ways of approaching a task.

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?


  1. I do both types of grouping. Most often, I pick their groups when it is a specific activity. However, during Read to Someone time with Daily 5, I let my kids choose themselves. We do spend some time reflecting on how groups and partners work together in order to determine if they are a good fit. For the most part, the kids make good choices, but there are times I have to intervene. Thanks for your post! :D
    Adventures of a Schoolmarm

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