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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Greasing the Skids of Group Work

I've pretty much had it up to *here* with, not all the kids, but the 10% that make my life annoying. I won't go into the gory details about why they are annoying. Nobody wants to hear that.

Out of frustration, though, sometimes good stuff pops out. Today in Algebra 2 the children were working in groups of four exploring transformations of functions (BL)*. This wasn't the kind of exercise with a group component grafted on to individual work - it was essential that they compare the four different graphs to draw meaningful conclusions. My classes had five or six groups each, and most of them were functioning brilliantly - helping each other troubleshoot, refining each other's wording - it was music. Really.

But in fourth period, I had a group that was sitting there, staring at their calculators in silence, waiting for, what, I don't know. My fed-up-ed-ness came over me and I towered over the group, intimidatingly, saying, "Do you know her name? No? Why don't you introduce yourself, like a normal person? Shake hands. Good. Now what's her name? What's his name?" I did this several times. Until the group was bonded in their feelings of persecution and shared opinion of my weirdness. After that, they started talking. The same thing happened again seventh period! I did it again. It worked.

The moral: sometimes it's my job to be an overbearing jerk. And sometimes I need to remind myself that the children are children.

*Credit for original lesson I shamelessly repurposed goes to my colleague, Dina.