Thursday, February 18, 2010

Group work pt II

So how does a Math Rules! volunteer manage a small group effectively? I found an article online that is pretty dense in content, and doesn't even address group work in schools. I still thought that many of the main ideas apply to working with a small group of elementary school students. The Personal Functions section is especially nice to note. The Managing conflict, Stopping conflict escalation, and Disruptive Behaviors sections are important for volunteers who have been having a grand ol' time trying to manage their small groups.

This article called Promoting Problem-Solving Skills in Elementary Mathematics is also quite useful for managing and provides best approaches to math group work. I have seen the teachers I work with use the Problem of the Day and Whole Group Learning techniques as the group lesson for the students and also for me to guide the group work afterwards. My teacher would write a problem on a flip chart, ask the students to copy down the problem in their notebooks and then to solve it. Afterwards, she asks for volunteers to explain what they got and how they got there. Directly from the article, the big group lesson for the day allows students to:

o identify the parts in the question
o find the best problem-solving strategy and explain why it is the best
o describe two different ways a problem could have been solved
o share student-generated questions
o ask other students to solve the problem and justify their answers

These skills and approaches to teaching are also useful in small groups. The article outlines that students benefit from being in mixed-ability groups (to encourage less motivated/focused/confident students to work with and learn from the more motivated/focused/confident students) as well as similar ability groups. Hopefully, Math Rules! groups are more similar ability small groups. I've also mentioned before on this blog that even in "similar ability" groups there is a lot of variation in specific abilities.


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