So, this week, I'm at OGAP - the Oklahoma Geometry and Algebra Project which is being hosted at Northeastern State University - Broken Arrow. Yesterday at lunch, I was telling some of the other workshop participants about an idea from druinok who blogs at Teaching Statistics. When students are working in groups, she gives them 3 cups to keep in a stack on their desk. One red cup. One yellow cup. One green cup. You know, just like a traffic light.
I picked up my cups at Party City for $2.99/package. I could have probably looked around and found them on sale, but I wanted to make sure I bought them before I forgot. This has only been on my list of things to buy and try out for MONTHS!
If students are working and everything is going well, the green cup should be on top. If students have a question but can continue working, the yellow cup should be on top. If students have reached a point where they cannot move on without help, the red cup should be on top.
Is it ironic that I'm using a traffic light strategy with my students who live in a town that doesn't even have a traffic light?
I'm excited about trying out this strategy in my classroom for multiple reasons. When students are working in groups, I sometimes have difficulty figuring out where I am needed most. If one group has a red cup up, I need to be there. If all of the groups have their red cups up, that means we need to pause the group work and come back together as a class. I obviously need to clarify the problem or reteach a certain concept. Plus, it forces my students to think about their own levels of understanding. They have to ask themselves, "Okay. We're having trouble. Can we still keep working? Or are we completely against a brick wall?"
You can read about druinok's experience with trying this out in her own classroom here.
I'm going to combine this strategy with some of the strategies and group work norms that I've learned about from reading Strength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary Mathematics by Ilana Horn. The author emphasizes that groups need to make sure they have discussed their questions in their groups before asking them of the teacher. It needs to be a group question - not an individual question. So, when a group puts up a red cup, I need to make sure that the group agrees on the question before I even consider answering it. One way I can do this is by choosing which student in the group to ask for the question. I shouldn't just ask the student who has their hand up.
Though, I guess if groups have the cups, they won't have their hands up. This should help keep groups from distracting one another, right? Actually, I'm thinking of doing away with hand-raising all together in my classroom. I want to move to a popsicle stick strategy for calling on students. I have a tendency to just call on the same few students. These are the students who are engaged and want to participate. But, I need to be holding all of my students accountable for the information.
Lots and lots of changes in store for next year! I'm hoping that year three of teaching will be the best yet!
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