This is not a new idea. I’ve heard about task-oriented group activity from various occasions. I’ve always wanted to try this but somehow was a bit afraid of the possible chaos.
Still, I’ve decided to use my 4th graders classes to try this new approach as a reviewing activity.
My first attempt is quite simple and easy to conduct. I made 8 title badges read ‘HOMEWORK’
I picked 8 able students to be the HOMEWORK CAPTAINS. Their missions are –
1. Check if their mates correct their homework thoroughly (you know how some kids never correct their mistakes)
2. Help their mates to improve homework (peer teaching)
I found those HOMEWORK CAPTAINS quite happy to wear the badges and they did do their job to my satisfaction.
That’s when I started to notice the magic of wearing a BADGE.
My first serious attempt is to review a topic about transportation. I have kids make a graph on a poster according to his or her way of commuting to school/home/Chungli (the nearest city).
I found the badge helps them to remember what they are suppose to do and the title also help them to expand some more daily vocabulary.
Writers should copy a graph from the board first. The others can help him or her to write faster (spell out the word, etc.). I try to time them whenever I can.
The the reporters leave their seats to look for answers on the posters displayed around the classroom.
Reporters should come back and report their answers to writers.
Leaders are to monitor if everyone is doing their job and do a bit of coaching when team members have problems.
The task involves a bit of reading, speaking and spelling.
Finally I check the answers with everyone and see how many groups got the answer right.
I learned my 4th graders enjoy moving around the classroom and searching for answers. Peer coaching is observed.
Since they are not familiar with the work flow, it is better to have an easier task first as a test drive. It saves time and it does the work!
My 2nd attempt is part of the Halloween lessons. I introduce them the Halloween game “apple bobbing” with a short and easy to understand video clip ( click here for all the video clips I showed in my class)
Then I did a bit of discussion to check if they understand the video.
i.e. Can you use your hands to grab the apple? What do you need to have to play apple bobbing? You need apple and …..?
by now 80% kids can produce vocabulary related to the context.
After that I showed them the reading material. I made a few blanks myself as a close test.
Now that’s when kids start to organize themselves to complete the task as a group!!
I offer them a word list and they are to fill in the blank within the time frame. The rule is – only writer and writer alone can write answers. The others are to help him/her picking the right word for the right sentence.
A lot of discussion and reading is involved in this stage.
Then I checked the answers with the class at the end of the session.
A few things I learned:
1. Time pressure is the best way to keep them focus.
2. It’s good to have a bit of preview (be it a video clip/picture…) before giving out the reading material.
3. Use the advantages of reading material with illustrations. Have kids label the picture first helps them to grasp the meaning of the story.