Teach Like A Champion: Strategy 1

In my rain traffic drive home this evening I was drafting a blog post in my head about my new improved group project strategies this week because frankly paying attention to traffic is boring and talking to yourself in the car is completely sane.
During my daily blog stalking reading I recalled that I wanted to participate in the Teach Like A Champion book study that Life In Middle School is hosting. This week's focus is strategy #1: no opt out. In a nut shell finding strategies to ensure no students can hide behind the infamous "I don't know."
And while I might be stretching the strategy a bit I think my original blog topic will fit in nicely with the book review. Well, in my sleep deprived state it seems like they connect, though I could be reaching a bit. Seriously though, what is with so many meetings! PBS, Robotics After school, CAC, Back to School Night, Robotics After School, Staff meeting and repeat. I would just love a day after school of no meetings where I can catch up on lesson plans, IT issues and grades, that is not a Friday, because by Friday at 4 my brain is mush.
Oh right, a book study!
Since the beginning of school I have been a bit stressed with the levels of my students. At first I thought I was moving too fast for their summer brains but then I was beginning to think I was teaching to space cadets. Do not get me wrong, I HEART my students this year! But I would give directions orally, they are on my projector, written in my worksheets on their computers and then have them repeat them back to me, wait 5 minutes and go around to check progress and get 30 "what are we supposed to do" "oh wait I shouldn't be playing games?"
So then I did what I despise, used their mouse to get them to the right site and basically spoon feed them information. In a 48 minute period I would maybe get half of the room working and the other half just left with their hands in the air.
On Sunday I said, NO MORE!
In Robotics I put students in groups of 2-3 to create a STEM career research presentation, the project was already written I just adjusted it to become a group project.
I reviewed how to work in groups with the class and gave them a group log and two question passes. Each day they must write down their progress and assign group members roles. They can only ask me two questions per class period so the group has to decide the question that gets asked together.
Daily grades are given in two ways; one from me observing group work and the other from group members grading each other's progress. And the most genius part, they can fire a member who is not contributing and that person will have to create a presentation alone.
And guess what it worked! (Cue the happy dance!)
For the last three days I have had students working together to create presentations over a STEM career. Even better when I move around the room I see all three students huddled around the computer with powerpoint or prezi open entering information.
When I do stumble upon an unsure group I walk them through the project in a different way and have the time to give them more attention.
And when I come across the group with one person goofing off, I ask the group members if they want to fire the student, they sort of shrug and agree and the student persuades the team that he will shape up. Fifteen minutes later I check back in and the group is working together in unison.
I believe that by turning the tables on students and holding them accountable with each other it requires all students to step up their work. No over achiever is left doing all the work and no under achiever is allowed to skate by without actually contributing.
In middle school image is so important and no student wants to be rejected by their friends so they suddenly work harder to understand the project, take the time to discuss the content of the project with the group members and teach each other what they know about creating visual appealing presentations. This would never happen if they just had to create it on their own.
I think this ties in perfectly with the no opt out strategy, no student is able to hide behind the "I don't know" or "I don't get it" and survive in the group.
In a bonus our school started Social and Emotional Learning with the Step Up Program this year and for the past two weeks we have been focusing on the social aspects of group work so I am able to tie all of those skills into our class routine.
While I do try to use other "no opt" techniques in my classroom, I wanted to stick with something that I was trying out this week and that was working. Also I really didn't want to babble too much, you can go ahead and say yea right!
One more day until the weekend! I am already feeling a big day focused on rewarding students and our PAT rather than too much content, a post for another day.
The Babbling Box!

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