Friday, November 2, 2012

Two Students, One Book

It used to annoy me when my students would forget their books. I'd then have to pair the student without a book with a student that had a book so they could share. However, I began to notice a curious thing-- the partners that shared books were generally more communicative and more on task than those that did not share a book. If each partner had their own book, they tended to work silently and alone  (usually out of shyness or discomfort), even if I asked them to work together. The partners that shared one book had no choice. They had to collaborate.

I then realized, if that be case, why shouldn't all students share books? Now there is the odd rule in my class that partners will occasionally work out of one book. This requires partners to confer on answers, discuss where they disagree, and explain or justify their knowledge. Rather than providing the option to work together, it creates the necessity to work together. In a communication class, I try to place more emphasis on how students communicate--how they go about getting an answer--than circling the correct answer.

This does not mean that finding the correct answer is not important. Once students have finished an activity, I'll check their work. If there is an error, I won't point out the error overtly. Instead I might circle three questions in the book. Two will be correct and one will contain the error. I will then tell the students that one of those three questions are wrong. It is then up to the students to discuss where they think they made their error and correct their own mistake.

Using these methods has helped take what might be individual and non-communicative assignments, and change them into collaborative activities.

Do you have any strategies for creating a more communicative and open atmosphere in the classroom? If so, I'd like to hear them.