Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quarter the Cross Using the Group Work Participation Quiz

I knew that I wanted to restructure some ways we did things in class this semester. One area that I felt needed improvement was group work. I had read Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets this summer and read some of the strategies to improve group work. However, I didn't read into the strategies enough. I went back and re-read the strategies last month, and one strategy that stuck with me was the participation quiz.

To do a participation quiz, start by giving students a task to work on and have the students pick (or you can assign) group roles. Then you take the board or a piece of paper and divide it into sections so that each group has one section. The teacher then goes around the room noting behaviors, quotes, questions, and etc. that he or she likes or dislikes and puts them on the board. Then each group earns a grade at the end of the practice.

I used to put my students' names into the spreadsheet and used the Random Name Picker and used Visible Random Grouping (VRG) and grouped kids into groups of four. Then each student had a role of either team captain, facilitator, resource manager, or recorder/reporter, which are also from Mathematical Mindsets. Just an aside-if you haven't read Mathematical Mindsets yet, get your hands on a copy now. Go do it. Now!

I then gave students the Quarter the Cross task, which is a task where students are given five crosses and have to shade in a quarter of the area of the cross. If you are unfamiliar with Quarter the Cross, check it out here. I really like this task because it allowed students of all levels to enter the task at the same level and flourish. I also thought that this would be a good starter task to model group work, and I am happy with my choice.

After I gave students the task and told them to pick their group roles, they went to work, and so did I. I set up a section of my back whiteboard and numbered the groups. I walked around multiple times, and every time I heard a phrase or saw a behavior I liked, I went and jotted it down on the whiteboard. I did this repeatedly. You can also use this when you see undesirable behaviors, or if group members are off task, and if group members are not following their roles. Thankfully I didn't have to jot down any negative notes.

Many of my students told me that they enjoyed the task. Several students said that they liked the fact that this group work encouraged communication. I had a couple of students also tell me that she thought the notes were helpful, and several thought that it was helpful to receive feedback in real time. I also noticed that several were occasionally glancing at the backboard reading my notes.

So, I completely recommend both this task and this strategy. I will definitely be making the feedback and participation quizzes a part of my rituals from now on! Below are a few pics of the groups working, the task itself, and my notes from the participation quiz. Forgive me if you can't read my writing for the participation quiz. Let me know if you have any questions or ideas.

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