Monday, August 22, 2016

Individual/Group/Class Norms Revised

In my previous post, I wrote about my updated group norms. But then, I got some great feedback in the form of comments, a few Twitter conversations, and a post by Sarah on her updated groupwork norms... damn you, MTBoS with your feedback, always making me want to change stuff to make it better.

I decided to break up my groupwork norms into three components:

  1. Individual accountability
  2. Group accountability
  3. Class accountability
Here is the poster for each set of norms.

Finally, I made a poster for the green/yellow/red cup strategy Avery uses in his middle school classes. I went back and forth a bunch of times to see if this was perhaps not going to work in high school, especially if students are usually working on whiteboards around the room rather than sitting at a desk, and if there was maybe a way to do this electronically, but eventually, decided to just do it the same way that Avery does it and then make changes, if needed.

The idea is that each group starts with a stack of three cups, with green on top, yellow in the middle, and red on the bottom.

If the group feels stuck or confused, they should move the green cup to the bottom of the stack. The yellow cup is a sign to the group to discuss their confusion together and try to get themselves unstuck using the various strategies we've discussed or by checking in with other groups. 

If they have discussed and tried to get themselves unstuck, but were not successful, then they come up with a single group question that every member of the group needs to be able to articulate, and can switch their cups so that the red one is on top, at which point a teacher will come over and ask a random member of the group what their question is.

Avery's selling points for me were:
  • The yellow cup is an important step to prompt students to reflect on their confusion as a team and get better at the "unsticking" process that is such an important part of productive struggle.
  • There is a clear visual for the teacher in scanning the room where groups are at and which might need attention soon (currently at yellow).
  • You can hear cups switching so without even looking, have a sense of group need.
  • The proportion of the time that various cups are on top gives you valuable information regarding the challenge level of the task you've given students that day. Ideally, cups are changing back and forth between green and yellow as groups become puzzled and then figure things out on their own.
Here's a poster summarizing this for students:

As always, feedback and suggestions for improvement are welcome!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Formalizing Routines

In my last post, I blogged about #TMC16 and how excited I was to take what I learned in @davidwees's workshop on instructional routines and apply it to what I do most in my class, which is guided investigations (aka problem sets that scaffold instruction) and open investigations, which are more focused on exploring connections and representations of student thinking. I've taken a first stab at writing out the steps and teacher moves involved in both types of investigations (links below), including writing prompts for students and class norms. The class norms were especially tricky to nail down because I've been thinking all summer about how to marry the norms that I learned in Complex Instruction, which are all about valuing different types of participation and making the group a cohesive and supportive unit, with what I'm seeing as emerging from the research on Visibly Random Groupings, which values flow and makes the entire class a unit of idea exchange and interdependence. Complex instruction often has assigned roles within the group and clear instructions on establishing a "group question" before a teacher can be called over for help. By contrast, in a VRG class structure, students are encouraged to share ideas with and ask for help from anyone in the class. Groups change daily and roles are eschewed in favor of flow of ideas and vertical whiteboards that encourage easy participation and engagement.

My attempt to merge these two cooperative structures (as well as my other goals for students) has resulted in the following group norms:

I am going to continue randomly assigning students to groups when working on problem sets or open investigations and avoid assigning roles. There will probably be one day every week or two when students are grouped homogeneously based on their self-assessment of their needs (more structure/support/direct instruction, same level (stay with guided inquiry), explore independently). I have to think about tweaks to the group norms that need to happen on those days.

I also wrote out the protocol for when a group can ask me for help. They need to first attempt the strategies posted in the classroom for getting unstuck (listed below), look around to see what other groups are doing and send a representative to another group to discuss and share ideas, and if they're still stuck, to formulate a single question to ask me... aka a group question. I should be able to ask anyone in the group what their question is and be assured that it was indeed a group decision to get help.

I will try to remember to write another post discussing the various reflection prompts and closing questions that I've adapted, but here are the links to the two routines, which have all of the prompts I've thought of so far.

Guided Inquiry Routine

Open Investigation Routine

Feedback is super appreciated! These are still very much in the planning stages, but it's been immensely helpful to write out and formalize the routines that I normally use in my classes. My goal is to work on making these better this year, both in my classes and in those of my colleagues, through lesson study focused specifically on routines.