While classrooms are often filled with student chatter, that chatter is not productive in nature. Teachers must be intentional in their planning for student collaboration. In the article Maximizing Those A-Ha Moments with Intentional Collaboration by Nataki Gregory, four steps for intentional collaboration are identified:
- Set the purpose – Talk about why it is important to work with others. Be overt in linking the work to learning needs.
- Align the task – The task should be consistent with content standards and provide for both individual and group learning and accountability. Whittle away all the “fluff” that may interfere with students truly learning the “stuff.”
- Provide a clear structure – Help identify roles and responsibilities, provide materials, and establish clear rules of engagement (norms); also, provide a clear timeline for completion that includes incremental measuring points. Let students see prior examples and exemplars of the desired product if possible.
- Use data to inform your practices – Actively review the room to ensure body language and gaze indicates engagement. Check in with groups and individuals. Ask probing questions. Document, document, document! Use what you are learning throughout the process to shape the work for the good of the class.
As you prepare for your upcoming classes, look for opportunities to include collaborative work and be intentional in preparing for those learning experiences. You and your students will be glad you did!