Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cooperative Learning Selector Prompts


Cooperative learning requires teachers to be as quick on their feet as children!  Sometimes it’s tough to remember strategies, praises, cheers, and starting prompts.  This resource is meant to be a helper for starting prompts.  

When two or more students are preparing to share, either with one another or with the whole group, many times it makes sense to identify who will begin speaking in order to ensure the fluency of the activity and active engagement and accountability by all students.   It’s easy to fall into a rut and use the same “starters” over and over, but in the name of novelty and fun, I created a set of  64 prompts to add a little extra oomph to your day- and take some pressure off of the 4,000 other decisions you make in a day!  

I printed mine in color, mounted on black tag board, and laminated the cards (I might have made them just so I can use that darn personal laminator I just bought!).  After punching a few holes, I placed them on a ring and they are in fingertips' reach whenever I need them on my whiteboard. These would be awesome to start the year with as you begin teaching rituals and routines in cooperative learning!  


:)) Heather 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Classroom Rules: Back to Basics

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a CLC exploring Explicit Instruction. Initially, I was hesitant to "buy in" because I had the idea that it took away the "fun" in learning. I prided myself in being the teacher whose kids were always active, moving around, and seemingly engaged in their learning. Explicit Instruction, from what I knew of it, contradicted this. Boy was I wrong! Quite the contrary, once I started trying out some of the strategies, I was seeing results immediately!

 Explicit instruction provides students with multiple opportunities to interact with content, whether it’s rules, problem solving in math, or vocabulary instruction. The teacher clearly defines the concept and then provides engaging activities for students to practice applying this concept. This repeated exposure coupled with the scaffolding of difficulty levels, provides the safety net your below-level students need and the challenge your upper level students need, enabling everyone to grow, succeed, and have fun!
I highly recommend reading Anita Archer's, "Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching."  The title says it all!  She streamlines lessons like a pro and you can even watch 11 of her videos on her site.  Click the video link and you will be impressed at her pace and efficiency.  Watch the kids! They are in awe of her and EVERY child is participating.  It's not the video either...we practiced this as part of our CLC.  First, we used one of our classrooms as a "test room" and then did the same lessons in our own classrooms.  In both situations, the kids were all fully engaged and retained the information we had taught with a much higher level than we expected.  My kids looked forward to the days I would come back form the CLC training to test something new on them!

Basically, you are laying a foundation for all of your students to be able to dig deeper and apply more abstract concepts.  Since this training, I have begun introducing virtually every lesson with the explicit instruction model which pairs perfectly with cooperative learning strategies.  With these two methods in place, student attitudes and success soared.  I can't wait to see what happens this year when I get a whole year to implement this structure!

With this in mind, I want to start the year a little differently.  Traditionally, we always spend the first few days as a class creating our rules and doing a few activities with them.  Our rules get written on a poster and plastered on the wall, and more or less, forgotten.  This year, I want students to engage more with the rules and in analyzing their own performance.  And so, I decided to create an explicit instruction unit introducing and exploring our classroom rules.

First, I decided I wanted the rules to be as simple as possible and short!  The list is pretty traditional, but you'll see, the deeper into the explicit instruction unit you go, there is quite a bit of detail attached to each rule.  Here's my list:

For each rule, the teacher introduces it and explains why it is important.  The next three slides discuss how the rule should look, sound, and feel, followed by some non-examples.  

The slides look simple, but there is a set of suggested teacher prompts included in each notes section as you can see in this screen shot:

The prompts are all editable (but the backgrounds are not to protect clip art privacy rules).  This introduction is followed by three activities that engage the students in multiple interactions with the rule and cooperative learning strategies.  Each day ends with students reflecting upon their understanding of this rule in their own "Rule and Goal" book (18 pages).   Each of the first four day works around this same basic routine.  

The fifth day is a cumulative review using cooperative learning strategies and reviewing the class pledge as students all sign their name to a class chart and in their personal booklets. Students also work together to create a consequence chart.   The best part is, I will now have a concrete reminder for myself and students each month because the rest of the student booklet includes a monthly student evaluation of their progress with the classroom rules.  This ensures that I don't get lackadaisical about reinforcing and reviewing these rules!  I'm even thinking of keeping track of my own progress...I've broken a rule or two myself I'm thinking.  
Here's your reward for sticking around:
Minute to Win It Set #4
Have a blast and take those pictures...

:0) Heather