Lately in social studies--and throughout the entire middle school--we've been doing a lot of cooperative learning activities. Today we did one that the students really enjoyed and did really well: instead of having everyone do this by themselves, they instead did it at as a group where the others who weren't writing acted as checkers and coaches for the one who was writing.
Everyone got their own colored pencil so you'd know who was writing what. Students, when it was their turn, were then given a minute to write on their team's sheet how the document from their document packet both could be an argument for quitting Washington's army (at Valley Forge) and staying. The others in the team who were not writing acted as coaches and checkers; making sure what their teammate was writing was correct and what the group wanted to put down.
Instead of taking 10+ minutes for everyone to do this individually, the students were able to get this entire sheet done PLUS a class discussion in less than that time, and still covered all of the details that needed to be covered. Students got to do part of it individually (write the answer), part of it collaboratively with their group (checking answers, discussing), and then go over the entire sheet as a "recheck" with the entire class.
Cooperative learning and collaboration really is enhancing the learning environment that's happening here at MRH. To all my teacher friends: give it a try! It's amazing how much more learning, interaction, and engagement takes place in the classroom!