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Is This Going to Be on Youtube?

 Creatively Structuring Classroom Collaboration


I am a Math and Science Coach at a PreK-8 English/Spanish Dual Language School in Washington Heights. I came to education through Teach for America, studied at Bank Street College, and have now been teaching for eight years. Last year I took on the responsibility of teaching general education 6th grade science when the previous teacher retired. I was excited about this because science is fun and I think 6th graders are pretty cool (usually). The students did turn out to be pretty cool, but some of them were mentally checking out of lessons, and many were not quite sure how to work together as science partners. This is bad because collaboration is a huge part of science (and life). Plus, they were yelling at each other.

With support from facilitators and teachers at TCICP’s Accessible Curriculum Inquiry Team, I asked and investigated the question:
How can I foster productive collaborative work to make curriculum accessible to all students?
My attempts to answer this question and sometimes surprising findings are documented in this project. I made the following discoveries which I want to share:
  • The most valuable ideas for classroom change are those that come from students
  • Group roles and norms can be useful, but require a lot of management
  • Student reflection is an important part of the collaborative process
  • Teacher reflection is an important part of the inquiry process
  • It takes time and persistence for a new initiative to show results 
  • Kids love making videos (maybe you already knew that)
  • Creating video recordings fosters vocabulary development
  • Extrinsic motivation doesn’t hurt, and everyone likes to earn points
  • It is possible for 6th graders to work together!