Group Work as Practice for “Reality”

Before a long post, a few succint points –

  • We’re doing excellent work so far.
  • Every group has problems.
  • Those problems serve as teachable moments.
  • I have solutions for those problems!
  • No knives or cutting utensils in school.
  • Room 104 is open from 3-4 after school next week.  Sign up.
  • Ask me if you have any questions!

We’ve got 32 groups constructing 35 different buildings right now.  Generally speaking, progress is very good.  We do notice – both teacher and students –  problems some groups have.  Perhaps your group is one of these (read only what you need):

  1. One person is doing all the work.  Some people have  a high standard and/or ambitions on this project.  While they may think they are doing the group a favor by taking it home and doing it better there, they are excluding members from the group.  An excellent student with a high expectation is a great example for his/her peers.  Get together at someone’s house and do this together so we can learn from one another.  COLLABORATION is a goal of this project as much as the actual product is.
  2. One or two people aren’t doing their share.  I sit with each group everyday.  People who have not brought their materials, done their jobs, or worked are academically penalized.  Students who ARE doing their jobs should be sure they’re including everyone in the work, even those unwilling to work.  If I don’t see something, students need to communicate with me so I can address the problem.  That’s my job, and a valuable lesson of this project.  Ignoring it or hoping it goes away are foolish decisions that only lead to more problems in the future.  (please see #4 for more bout this)
  3. Some people are unhappy with (what’s looking like) the finished project.  Part of group work/collaboration is compromise.  If a student insists that their idea be implemented, then others will do the same and no collaboration exists.  We won’t always get our way.  Instead, making suggestions asking “What if we did this?” or “Do you think this would look better?”  or “I think that this could look better, can we do this instead?”  One person’s idea of a bad job is another’s idea of excellence.  Be careful not to insult one another.  And I’M here, too!  Ask me – I’ll tell you what grade you will get if turned in as-is.  I could put your worries at ease with a good review, or help your peers understand your perspective with a critical one.
  4. My mistake: too much time between workdays. Some groups lost touch with each other, worked out of sync with one another, and lost momentum.  For this reason, I will allow kids to now work in class on this until the 10/2 deadline.  I will also allow them work on this in my room after school until 4:00.  Students must sign up outside my classroom.  I’ll take the first 20 who do so.  Additionally, we’ll be grading the kids on their production each day.  Since we’re spending so much time on this in class now, we need to hold them accountable.  Students working hard all period receive a 10 out of 10, those not will get the appropriate grade.

Tomorrow, I’ll post some construction pictures.  As I’ve stated before, you would be impressed with how well 90% of our students are working with one another, sharing ideas, delegating work, and developing a harmonious team.  I’ll post some pictures since you can’t be here to see it for yourself.

I sit with each group/individual nearly every day.  I know what each group is doing, how they are progressing, and solve problems with all of them.  Feel free to ask me for an update, clarification on what your child (or you) perceives as a problem, or to help solve a problem.  I check my mail often, so feel free to bug me!  Some groups have big problems, some have no problems, and some groups just can’t get along!  These are parts of this project, and any group work.  I wish they didn’t happen, of course, but they provide for critical experiences to improve their collaboration skills.  As we near the deadline and anxiety increases over the project I will give them all the time I can to work on this and ease their minds.

And students – don’t forget our goals and objectives with this project, too!  While learning about Chicago is important, so is learning how to work with one another.