Organize Manage Assess Engage All Students
Organize: Starting Positions for Group Learning
Effective group learning requires students to know three starting positions: Where they are with the topic under discussion, where they will meet in the room, and who will begin the group learning routine within their small group.
Engage ALL Students with Inclusive Directions
“I used to think very little thought went into creating group assignments. But now I the teacher must develop a structure for these groups to follow. Roles must be created to help keep the students on task. A structure needs to be given to turns, so that the students have a direction to aim their conversation. This also helps the teacher with time management.”
The directions for completing a group learning task includes four elements: Roles, Turns, Rules, and Time.
The basic roles in every conversation are speaker and listener. It is critical that these roles are clarified and the purpose of the role is clear to all students. The speaker may be presenting an idea, posing questions, or pointing out facts. The listener may be listening for similarities and differences in what the speaker is saying and their own ideas, for connections among the things the speaker says, or listening for points you want to ask questions about.
Two additional roles that are for assessing group learning are Recorder who documents what was said in the group and reporter who presents a short summary of the result of the group learning to the whole class – the report maybe the most important question, an answer, or an overview of the discussion.
For example, here a teacher is identifying clear roles to help students manage the task of offering feedback on student writing.
It is important to note that the teacher’s role during group learning routines is to listen and observe students. This makes group learning one of the best formative assessments that teacher’s use in the classroom. Teachers can here students using academic vocabulary and explaining their understanding. This enables the teacher to challenge misunderstanding and tailor mini-lessons to address student questions on their feet during a lesson – not waiting until papers are corrected.
Roles happen when a group needs to divide a task into different parts to accomplish a goal. In an effort to be efficient, each person takes on a different task. Successful completion of the project depends on each task being completed.
Possible Roles by Subject Area:
The second part of directions is Turns. For example, determining who will go first between two partners, or when everyone in the group takes a turn completing the same task in a circular fashion. For example, a group may take turns in a round to share a favorite part of the story, evidence to support a statement or an answer to a problem or question. Turns ensure that everyone talks and listens in a specified amount of time, thus ensuring behavioral engagement of all group members. The clear starting positions, ensures that students are prepared to participate before moving into small groups – so because students are prepared and take turns around in a circle, turns ensures 100 percent engagement every time.
Turns can take the form of “rounds” can be done when students share their ideas or questions one at a time around in a small group or a reporter representing everyone at each table can quickly share an answer using rounds. In this way, an answer representing every student is collected by the teacher rather than the ideas of a few students.
Turns are when everyone in the group takes turns completing the same task around in a circle. For example, a group may use rounds to share a favorite part of the story, a reason that caused an event or to share an answer to a problem. Rounds ensure that everyone has a chance to talk and listen in a specified amount of time.
Rounds can be repeated several times (for example, correcting answers may have ten rounds, one round for each problem) or the task can be changed for each round (for example, Round #1: Share the perspective of your opinion, Round #2: Share your opinion, Round #3: Share two reasons that support your opinion).
Some classes benefit from starting rounds in a whole class circle, for example each person sharing the most important word from a lesson or how they are feeling. Then students can form two circles with the teacher in the role of observer. With this practice, when students form small groups they understand how to pass a task a round in a group independently without the teacher coming over to manage the group.
Rules for group learning plays ensure access and equity. For example, when using Rounds, students can either contribute a new response or confirm a response of a previous student. To confirm a response, the student simply points to the student who has spoken before and that student will repeat the response, thereby ensuring that again, all students are able to participate no matter what their level of prior knowledge. In addition, the procedure helps students notice patterns and surprises in responses that are unique among the group members.
Finally, time is a key factor in equitable group learning. Specific time should be monitored for completing tasks – such as two minutes to annotate your homework circling the hardest three problems and the easiest. Each turn is timed so that students have equal amounts of time to share their initial ideas in a group. And most importantly periodically the group stops the discussion to think about what has been said and to reflect on and record their learning – changes from their starting position. Many teachers use smart board, phones, or other timers. At first, timing can feel awkward – but once you get used to timing – the focus and equity will make it well worth it.
Inclusive directions ensure autonomy, belonging, and competence for all students as the action pattern is carried out. Let’s review, in your directions identify Roles – at the minimum specify who is the speaker and listener first. rounds, to ensure participation for all, rules, – such as confirm and contribute ensure rigor and access, and controlling how time is spent to ensures equity through equal participation and promotes learning by requiring time for thinking.
Create inclusive directions with access and rigor for all learners. In an upcoming webinar we will focus on how to use these tools of roles, rounds, rules, and time to specifically address academic diversity such as a wide range of reading levels, gaps in background knowledge, and comfort with speaking in groups. You are probably already thinking of ways you can use these tools to tailor group learning to ensure student autonomy, belonging, and competence.
Students use the Roles, Rounds, and Routines to complete an assigned learning task in small groups. Roles and Rounds help students learn skills such as taking turns, allowing everyone to participate, and dividing up tasks among group members. These skills are essential for working collaboratively and can be applied to every subject at all grade levels.