Group work has always been a passion of mine. When I first became a teacher, I wanted my students to have the opportunity to learn and work together as much as possible; five years later, I still see the value of having heterogeneous groups of students learning to work with one another.
In our collaborative classroom, students have the opportunity to work with all types of ability levels and backgrounds, but our goal is to highlight and the value of working with diverse strengths.
We know that students can gain knowledge by working through projects and problems with their peers; however, students have to be taught how to effectively work together. There are some excellent frameworks out there, including Scrum and the Kagan Cooperative Learning, that help scaffold learning in groups.
I believe the teacher has to lay the foundation for group work and model what it looks like to work with others. As a co-teacher, I am fortunate to have ample opportunities for modeling, but that does not mean that modeling how to work with others is an unachievable goal for those without co-teachers. You just have to be proactive by reaching out to others and being open to the work that goes into collaboration.
In the past, I have been guilty of assigning group work without modeling how I want my students to collaborate. Now I realize that I have to model how to share the workload; this includes demonstrating how to work through conflict as well as helping students realize the potential of picking teams based on strengths. Never forget the power of your presence as a teacher. The teacher is the most influential person in the classroom. The students will mimic whatever the teacher does, and teachers have to show students how to work effectively together. It may not be a statewide goal, but it is a life skill.
“Never believe that you are better than anybody else, but remember that you are just as good.” -John Wooden
This quote by John Wooden is a great way to start engaging your students about what it means to be on a team. When we work with others, we really should be serving others instead of competing against one another. I try to teach my students that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but what is most important is how we use our strengths to help others.
One way to help your students understand the importance of recognizing strengths is by teaching them students to pick their own groups. When you do so, encourage them to choose teammates based upon skills the group needs to succeed, instead of picking based upon friendship. Go through the group project expectations as a class and then discuss what types of skills would be needed in order to create the best project. Here’s an example of some of the questions we encourage our students to ask when picking groups:
Help your students realize that what makes us different can also make us stronger.
If you are new to Scrum and your students are having trouble keeping their backlogs full, here are some great tips to help your students better their backlogs.
Now that you know how to help your students monitor their backlog, your students will be more efficient and effective when completing their group projects.
We had a blast presenting Scrum at VCEC. Our updated slides are attached below!
In a classroom, group-work can be the bane of a teacher’s existence; often times, group work time can only mean one thing — organized chaos. We all have experienced the group project blues: One person seems to take over the whole project, while others are never doing their fair share of the workload. Group work can be frustrating.
However, teachers realize the importance of group work for students to learn how to work effectively together. Collaboration is a 21st century skill and most jobs require employees to work as a team in order to complete projects. Employers want to hire people with diverse skill sets and an understanding on how to share those skills collaboratively.
How can I help you?
In our collaborative classroom, students learn the importance of servant leadership. We recognize that we all learn differently and exhibit different abilities. However, we understand that the best way to work together is to serve one another. By asking, “How can I help you?” students are putting others first. If a teammate is facing a challenge while working on a project, the other teammates are expected to work together to help solve that challenge. Instead of ignoring the problem and continue working, we seek to serve one another.
At the start of each group work session, have your students ask each other what problems they are facing and how they can help? Stop five minutes early and have students reflect on what they have accomplished for the day. Are we still facing any obstacles? If so, how can I help?
Pick teams based on skill, not on friendship.
Another approach to a more collaborative classroom would be by having students select group members based on skill, instead of based on friendship. Students need to understand that a great team is a diverse team. We discuss at length the importance of picking partners that will compliment your team. For example, a baseball team is made up players with a diverse skill set. The pitchers can throw the fastest while the outfielders can hit the ball the farthest. No one wants a team full of pitchers. They may be able to strike out the other team, but they may never make it to first base. Students need to make sure that their team is not one dimensional. In our classroom, we recognize that everybody is good at something. Whether it would be research, writing, art, or coding, students need to be able to choose members that will ultimately help their team reach success.
Have students select their own teammates. Every time they select a teammate, have them defend why they chose that person. Guide students to choosing teammates based on the skills needed basing on the project.
How do you feel about group work?
We were recently recognized by ISTE for combining Scrum with Minecraft. See how you can incorporate Scrum, Minecraft and Literature Circles into your classroom. Check out the link below:
If you look at the roster of a baseball team, you can tell that the best teams have a diverse set of skills. The pitchers can throw the ball the fastest and the outfielders tend to be the ones who can hit the ball the farthest. However if a baseball team was made only of the best pitchers in the world, it would be safe to say that they may strike out most of the players on the opposite team but they would be terrible at scoring runs.
We want our students to recognize the importance of having a diverse skill set while working in groups. With the help of Scrum, students choose their teams based on skill, not friendship. Students get to know their peers’ skills by filling out profiles that describe who they are. Those profiles are then hung in the classroom. Students can walk up to the “Skills Board” to see who might be the best fit for their group. They are now looking at their peers differently: they base their decision on how to make their next project the best it could be.
As the type of projects change, so do the groups. Students see the value in having a teammate who is skilled in art, coding, or making iMovies depending on the type of project that they are working on. We want to encourage our students to realize the importance of working with different people. As a result, students become more open to various ideas and it increases collaboration throughout the classroom.
Figurative Language Scratch Project
Product: Team has been asked to create a video game using Scratch, an online coding site to help students learn more about the different types of Figurative Language.
Skills Needed: Coding, Writing, Research, Organization, Creativity, Computer Skills
Group 1 Skill Set Group 2 Skill Set
Child A- Coding Child A- Coding
Child B- Organization Child B- Coding
Child C- Writing Child C- Coding
The classroom example above shows two different groups of students who picked their teams for the upcoming project. Group 1 pick teams based on skill, while group 2 picked their friends.
Group 2 loves to code and they love to work with Scratch. However, when it comes to creating a final product, they fail. The students in group 2 spent so much time coding, they ended up failing at creating a game that would help students learn more about Figurative Language.
Group 1 had a diverse set of skills. Child B kept the group on task with their organization skills, while Child C started to write the script for the game. Child A taught the other members in his group how to code, while gaining valuable skills from his teammates. Group 1 learned how to effectively collaborate.
It’s important for teachers to design projects that aligns with the types of skills their students have. As educators, it’s our job to include their interests and skills into their learning. When teachers design projects based on students skills, students will thrive in the classroom and shine as true collaborators.
Hello! Welcome to our blog. Let us introduce ourselves.
We are Joe Beasley, Jim Frago, and Bea Leiderman. We have been working on bringing scrum to students for the past year or so. Our goal is to provide guidance in the classroom to help students be self-directed and self-assessing when participating in group projects. We believe that long-term group projects are an ideal approach to learning in our 1:1 iPad classrooms.
We hope you will visit this site often. We will share ideas, resources, and success stories.
If you are attending ISTE in Denver, come to our session and hear our introduction to scrum. We will present on Monday at 2:30 in room CCC 703.