Algebra Team - Strategies for Group Work with Marlo Warburton & Julianna Jones
Narrator: Ms. Warburton and Ms. Jones both asked their students to work in groups, but each teacher has developed her own, unique system. We'll start with Ms. Warburton.
Marlo: "Alright, I like that you are thinking about this on your own at first. We always start thinking alone, before we go to a team talk."
I teach students to be in the right gear at the right time. First gear in my class is active listening.
"By telling me length times width equals area."
Second gear is independent work.
"I'm gonna come around and take, take a peek at what you have done on your own."
Third gear is what I call "Study Group."
Student: "I got 6x squared..."
Marlo: Each student has his or her own work to do, but they are allowed to collaborate.
Student: "That one and that one would be that one."
Marlo: And fourth gear is what I called "Team Work", which is your group has one task to do, as a group, together.
"OK. I haven't changed the gear yet. So, struggle by yourselves until I change the gear. I want to see what you can do on your own."
So, during warm-ups, they're in second gear. They're independently working. They have the quiet to learn something without hearing someone else run them over with their ideas, and then after some time passes, I will say...
"Alright, now I'm gonna switch you from second gear, independent work, to third gear, Study Team. You may help each other now. And, remember, helping does not mean giving answers."
Student: "For number 2, I was guessing that it would be like negative 9."
Student: "Yeah, and positive 4."
Student: "Yeah, because negative 9 times positive 4..."
Student: "No...oh yeah."
Student: "Equals negative 36."
Student: "And negative 9 plus 4 is 5x."
Student: "And then, for number 3..."
Student: "No, wouldn't...wouldn't it be like plus 4 and then negative 9?"
Student: "Oh, yeah it is! Oh, yeah it is! Yeah it is!"
Marlo: So I really like the model of 'first we work alone, then we work as a group, and then we discuss, whole class.'
That way, when students get called on, they've had some experience...
Student: "4x equals negative 36x squared?"
Marlo: "Audience, do you agree?"
Marlo: It's status building in the classroom.
Julianna: "So, he put an x, he went like..."
Narrator: In Ms. Jones' class, students take on specific roles within their small groups, helping to address a common problem that often comes up when students work in groups.
Julianna: "Who's the multiplier? So then, you would go through each one, right?"
Student: "Yeah, so, 5x times x..."
Julianna: I've taught Algebra to eighth graders for 10 years.
Student: "Is 35x"
Julianna: And I've learned that when you say to work in a group, it doesn't necessarily mean that. And, so I wanted to give them a structure.
"You got groups. When we work in groups, we got a way to do it. Here are the roles. I wanna, I wanna multiplier. I want somebody going through - 2x times 6x is 12x squared. 2x times negative 1, negative 2x. You get it."
In the rectangle, the only way you can check yourself is to multiply, really four times, each, each part of the box.
So I wanted one of the people in the group to feel ownership over talking it out.
Student: "X and X..."
Julianna: "Multiplier. Why?"
Student: "X and X equals X squared."
Julianna: "OK, not X and X. X..."
Student: "X times X."
Julianna: "I like that. OK. Thank you."
A second role was the Combine Like Terms, CLT.
"I want a CLTer, so that the people. I want somebody to say "Yes, Antoneisha, it's negative 8x because negative 2 plus negative 6.""
Integers are a real hurdle for my eighth graders. So I wanted one student on the combining like terms so that they could check the integers.
Student: "Plus 13x"
Julianna: "13x, is that right, CLT? Who's CLT? 13x? OK."
"Finally, I want a lead writer, or two lead writers. Make sure you get this. Hey, people in your group, they don't always write things down the way that you say it. So, the lead writers, I want you to make sure. Lila, it was a negative. I said write down a negative. Maria, the combining like terms, it was different. Look at people's paper. I want you to be involved with each other.
"You're a lead writer, and you’re a lead writer? OK, so like, you would check with, maybe, Fernando, and make sure your papers look the same."
I wanted at least one person, maybe two people being OK with looking at people's paper, and I modeled that several times.
"You get it. OK, and you don't have to write it for him, you're just making sure that he's not writing something different. You guys got this?"
Not only is that a beautiful thing of just humans working together, but it also is a way to build confidence.
"Now, why, why does this work?"
Many of them are used to having negative interactions with mathematics, especially when other experiences that they've had are about being quiet.
Student: "X plus X equals X squared."
Julianna: "OK, it's not plus 'cause you're doing area. You're doing length times width, right? So, X times X..."
Student: "OHH! It's X times X equals X squared."
Julianna: "There you go, now do this one."
When I ask students to work in group, I want them to have roles and I want them to be prepared to be challenged. You can try something and then it doesn't work, and then you keep trying.
"That's what we're doing. You got it."
And that doesn't mean that you didn't do it right. In fact you're doing it very well if you muddle around and try a few different things because then when you figure out what works, you feel confident about it.