Saturday, January 22, 2011

Working in Groups

My classes start on Monday, and I'm still scrambling to get all my planning done, and materials ready. I want our first activity to set a good tone.

In beginning algebra, the first group activity I usually have them work on is my attempt to get them thinking seriously about fractions, instead of just grabbing for the procedure that pops up first in their brains. (I described my campground problem in this post.) It gets pretty noisy while they're working. That's not a problem for me, but I've wondered if I could start with something quieter first.

I've been reading Designing Groupwork, by Elizabeth Cohen. (I don't remember who recommended it to me, but I know it was someone online - part of my 'Professional Development Network'.) There's an activity there that I've decided to try called Broken Circles.

Each group has 4 people. Each person gets pieces of a circle, but they don't add up to one full circle. Everyone must be silent. You can offer your pieces to your groupmates, but you can't request (even silently) a piece. The goal is for everyone to get a proper circle. It just takes a few minutes, and then you ask them some questions about their process.

I've never talked with my classes about what is good practice in groups. I've just let them go at the problem I've posed. This will give me an opportunity to begin a discussion with them about how working in groups can help people learn, and what makes groups work well.

My biggest class will have about 50 people show up on the first day. (Our official cap is 40, but some of my students from last semester want in, and there are 5 on the official wait list.) So I need 13 sets of circles. I got them printed up at Staples, but now I'm cutting them. I don't usually do things like this, and I'm not relishing having to cut 52 circles. (I've done 14 so far...)

I'm doing a math salon today, too. (It would have been wiser to schedule it for next Saturday, but it'll be a good break, I guess.)

1 comment:

  1. Would the colorful plastic plates work in this big group...to represent all the various fractions...three different colors, one cut to the center each, slid over the top of each other

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