Week 37: Product

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Products are evidence of learning.  And more importantly, products show that students know and can apply the process.  Once students learn the process to produce one type of product, can they apply the same process to produce a different product?  Inquiring minds want to know… I certainly did!

Students have been learning to work collaboratively in small groups to come up with an important concept from a story and write it on a large piece of paper. They have had multiple opportunities to learn the process of collaborating to negotiate and write the text in response to a book we had read during a Read Aloud.  Every time they went off into their groups, problems arose and when we came back together as a group, we problem solved together.  Before breaking into groups, we would review what they needed to do to successfully complete the task and produce a product to share.

The last full week of school, we decided to write all the volunteers who have helped our class a thank you note, to put the character trait of being thankful into practice.  We divided the class into groups based on the letter they would like to work on.  Students whose parents volunteered took on the facilitator role for the group.  For the non-parent helpers, volunteers stepped up to facilitate the group they chose.

How do I know when students have taken on the learning independently? When they no longer need me.  I saw before my eyes how taking the time to teach them the process has paid off.   They all went about in their groups to write their letters.

As students were working, I went around to observe.  I asked a group of three girls how they came up with the text.  A student replied, “Sofie came up with the text and we both agreed and that’s what we decided to write.”  In another group, one student started to write a word the others did not agree with. So, one student got up to get the correction tape (they were using markers instead of a pencil).  The student covered the word and the group came up with a word acceptable to everyone in the group. I saw students cooperating and contributing the same way they did when they were working on a response to our read aloud books. Because they knew the process, they were able to produce a product without assistance from me.

Needless to say, to see this happen by the end of the year was quite rewarding.  I hope they will remember three important things when working collaboratively with a group: one, work together (whether sitting in a circle, at a table, on the floor), two, listen actively, and three, everyone contribute.  Another important thing I noticed was students who were not facilitators in previous groups, were able to step up and knew the role of the facilitator. I think this is because we also debriefed about the roles and responsibilities of each member in a group when we problem solved.  Preparing everyone to be able to step up into a leadership role I think is important in the work around equity.  Often those roles are given to the more vocal and obvious “capable” other and the less vocal (perhaps because they are just learning the language) potential leaders learn to take a passive role.  I guess this would be one of my cautionary tips for how to make classrooms more equitable.  

On that note, I would like to end by highlighting that the work around oral language development contributes to the work around equity. The CCSS is clear that what we are trying to achieve is to prepare ALL students for life.


roberthicks's picture

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