Friday, August 15, 2014

Bad Way To Do Group Work

In the beginning of the teaching noted for Lesson 3 of The Lightning Thief unit, we get a teacher's note:

  • Ideally, students would routinely sit in their triads at the beginning of class. Many discussion, reading, and writing routines rely on this structure. If the class has another seating chart or routine, preview each lesson to determine the best time for students to transition to triads (typically at the start of Work Time). 

What this means is that the unit should be taught with the expectation that students sit in their same groups of three for the entire unit. I can see the advantages and disadvantages of the, but in the long term it's a problem. First off, let's remember these are sixth graders, not high school or college students. They have a great variety of maturity levels as well as very different motivation. In any class you're bound to have kids who don't work hard academically. I question the wisdom of having such small, inflexible groups for such a long period of time. 

In the opening you are elected to do this:

  • Read the learning targets:
    * “I can make inferences about Percy in order to understand him as the narrator of this story.”
    * “I can cite evidence from the text when answering questions and discussing Percy’s character inThe Lightning Thief.”

    * “I can follow our Triad Talk Expectations when I participate in a discussion.” 

(Pardon that odd line break in the reading targets above. I'm not good enough anymore with HTML code to figure out the formatting.) I'm struck by how none of these standards are content related. In other words, the goal is to be able to find details and relate them to some general ideas (i.e. Understanding Percy as the narrator) but not to knowing or understanding specific things about the story itself.

Lesson 3 has students go over the first four pages of The Lightning Thief twice: the first time for general understanding, the second to parse specific details in order to make inferences about Percy. Again, we have this repetition of text. It makes a certain sense in order to teach inferencing, but holy cow, this will get boring.

I'm still wondering when we're going to be talking about Greek mythology. Seriously. Not on a worksheet which students are analyzing somehow, but a deep and meaningful discussion of meaning.

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