Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Working In Groups

Kindergarten is a big transition for kids, and they come to school with a wide range of experiences.  While one student might have 7 brothers and sisters, another might be an only child.  Some kids have attended several years of preschool, while this may be the first school experience for others.  One of the biggest jobs of a kindergarten student is learning how to be part of a group.

We start by becoming part of the BIG community.  We learn what it means to be part of a school.  There are other classes around us, and we must learn to be respectful.  We also learn how to be part of a classroom community, and what we need to do to take care of our space and friends inside the space.  We learn to use self control, so we don't disrupt the learning of our classmates.

Working in small groups, without a teacher leading the group, is one of the hardest skills for a kindergarten student to master.  We work in teacher-led small groups throughout the year, but eventually I try to take myself out of the roll of "leader" and let the kids lead the way.  This is tough work when you are 5 or 6!!

Today we started a simple task of using pre-cut hands to represent counting by tens. (The sample, below, only goes to 20, but we went to 100!)

Many of our games, in math, have us using one or two partners.  Today's activity had us working in larger groups of 3 or 4.  Here were some of our challenges:

1. Represent our mathematical thinking
2. Make sure everyone contributes
3. Remember that this is a team activity, not individual

For the most part, working as a team was harder than they expected.  One group sat down with their materials, and without really communicating at all, completed their project from start to finish. (We added more paper to the project below.)

They had listened to the directions and just started working with no conflict.  Another group got their poster paper and started coloring on it.  When I asked them to look around at the other groups, they realized that the needed more supplies and that they weren't following directions.  I prompted them to find out from their neighbors where they could get the supplies they needed.  The same group returned to their seats and all started doing their own thing, rather than working on a cohesive project.

I let them go for a bit, until they realized that their project wasn't really working.  They kept running into each other and were repeating the work that another individual had already done.  At this point, they realized they needed a plan.

Another group was concerned that some of the group members were creating their project vertically and other members were creating their project horizontally.  When I asked the group what they could do to solve that problem, they were stumped for minute.  Finally, one of the group members suggested that they pull some of the hands off and make them all go the same direction.

As you can see, this simple math lesson that involved counting by tens and creating a project to display their tens, had much bigger objectives.  Today we learned more about what it means to be a team member, that it's important to make a plan before starting a project, and that sometimes we need to be flexible when it comes to group work.

In the coming weeks, we will be spending quite a bit of time working in small groups. My hope is that kids will gain a sense of cohesiveness, gain confidence in themselves, dig deeper into their learning than they thought they could, and become great team members.  It's a long process, but one that I think kindergartners are ready to handle.

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