The plan for today was to have students finish an online map activity that was supposed to act as a wrap-up to the current unit. However, there was a district-wide shutdown of the network today, leaving my students without internet access. So, I had to improvise, one of the many skills teachers need, no matter where you are.
I decided to create an impromptu group research lesson.
To setup, I posted the following instructions on the projector screen, explaining that they had three minutes to complete them from the start of the class:
- Get in a group of SIX people.
- Elect a team leader.
- Send your team leader to the front of the class and meet me with a piece of paper and something to write with.
At first, the class was a bit disorganized. Students were scrambling around, creating groups according to closest peers. Some students did not realize what to do until after the class started. Even after I spoke with all of the team members, telling them that their group's grade was contingent on their ability to work together to complete the task, many students were walking about and not paying attention to the clock. I slyly announced, "Team leaders, you have approximately 15 minutes remaining."
The tempo shifted dramatically. Suddenly, all of the groups came together to work on completing the assignment. As they became busy completing the assignment, I gave each student a number (from 1-6). At the end of 15 minutes, I called the students leaders together for a leadership conference. Most of the groups still had some work to complete, so we voted and extended the time by five minutes. This took us close to the end of the class period, but I made sure that each leader recorded who got what number in their groups. When we come back tomorrow, I am going to have everyone get into their newly assigned groups and share their research on their unique vegetation zones with each other. When not sharing, students will be taking notes on other student findings.
What was the result of this activity? Well for starters, distracting behavior decreased significantly. Granted, this was only after I pressured the team leaders with the display of the timer, but they were immediately able to come together and work productively on the assignment. While I did not get as far as I wanted to in the lesson, I am confident that when I pick it back up tomorrow, the leaders will be just as enthusiastic. In addition, I did not make a single widespread address to the whole class. I solely communicated with team leaders, giving each leader a sense of duty to complete something, just like a department head is responsible for responding to the principal of a school.
When I reviewed their submissions (which I will pass back tomorrow), every student had research written on their papers. In the future, I would like to structure this more so as to ensure group leaders facilitate discussion in order to acquire information. Perhaps having the leaders assign each of their members to one specific aspect of the research, and then share out? Overall, I think the lesson went great, considering the circumstances, and I am anxious to continue tomorrow!