Monday, October 31, 2011

Cooperative Learning in Action

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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teamwork & Collaborating Project

After we got back from our service project in Forest Park, we gave the students a challenge: create a new MRH building that included all of the following:
Each of the students were partnered with one other person.  Before they started building, they were given time to brainstorm individually and then with their partner using this sheet:
Once the plans were erected, the construction began.  Students worked frivolously to try and have their structure meet all of the requirements stated on the artists' sheet.

They had to work together with their partner in the short time frame given to try and create a structure that included ALL of the elements required.  I was AMAZED by the hard work these students and teams exhibited; they were so determined and committed to their design that they seemed to pull out all stops to get theirs built and make sure it's the best.

All in all these students worked incredibly well on this project; it really demonstrated how they can work with another person to achieve a common goal.  We worked all morning in collaboration with our friends at Forest Park Forever and then came back to school and got to demonstrate that same great teamwork and collaboration with each other.  These students continue to impress me every single day.

Team 8 Service Project

Team 8 decided to give back to our St. Louis community today.  In partnership with Forest Park Forever, MRHMS 8th graders spent the morning out in Forest Park helping with everything from landscaping, planting tulip bulbs and grass seed, and cleaning up the park.  All in all, the couple hours 8th graders spent serving together saved the folks at Forest Park Forever a week's worth of work doing the same things on their own.

MRH students worked fantastically with their community and with each other today during this service project.  They've really developed a sense of what it means to give back, serve, and be stewards of the land.  This 8th grade class is such a fantastic group of students that I KNOW will do great things in life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October Classroom: MSD Sewer Tagging

In 8th grade our October Classroom Expedition is a science/water based one...however, for the social studies part, we referred back to what we learned in our 7th grade Geography unit about reading maps and locating various places on them so we were able to locate the sewer/storm drains in Maplewood and Richmond Heights.

Before we set out to find these storm drains, we first got a personalized presentation from Dona at St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District about what should go down the storm drains and what really does.  We then discussed the importance that ONLY rain water should go down these storm drains; that everything else that goes down there ends up going into the streams (and those then become our drinking water!), so it's really important that you don't dump things down the storm drains and that only rain water goes down them.

We then set out with our maps in hand to go tag and label the untagged storm drains throughout Maplewood and Richmond Heights.  Overall, in the two full days we spent "tagging" storm drains, we tagged almost 200 drains in the MRH area!  Wow!  Great work MRHMS 8th graders!!  MSD was super proud of all of your hard work!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Cooperative Classroom

Lately in social studies--and throughout all of MRH--students have been engaging in a lot of cooperative learning activities.  Most of the teachers in the MRH school district have been trained in Kagan Cooperative Learning structures, and this year we've been using them in full-force within our classrooms.

However, students probably don't see all of the "structures" behind what they're doing in class; they see it as just another day with another "group" or "partner" activity that they're participating in.

For all of my teacher friends out there, these are amazing cooperative learning structures that promote very high levels of engagement.  For my parent followers, these structures really get your student thinking, collaborating, and cooperating to a very high degree with their classmates.  Plus it gets the students up and moving (getting that blood flow pumping to their brains!) which also leads to higher engagement because students are not simply just "sitting" in class but they're actually up and moving about while they are learning!

Below are some recent pictures of cooperative learning activities going on in our social studies classroom.  Students are reviewing for a quiz using stand up-hand up-pair up to find a partner and then engaging in quiz-quiz-trade (quizzing each other and then swapping cards before finding a new partner to "high five" and quiz again!).  Feel free to shoot me an email if you'd like to know more about what's going on with all of our cooperative learning activities! :)

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