While I’ve been taking time off work it has given me the head space and clarity of mind to think about how I like to teach and what I think my students really respond to. I would say that I use a lot more co-operative learning techniques that many of my colleagues. I know, I know… It’s now for everyone, but hear me out.
Here are the reasons I found that it works so well:
1. Students are not afraid of sharing their responses or ideas with the class because they’ve already shared with a partner or small group.
2. Bright students can really lift other students by showing them their thought processes.
3. It can be super low-prep. There are lots of simple co-operative learning activities that can be adapted to any subject or lesson.
4. It teaches students real-life relationship skills. Nobody works in a silo, we all need to engage and communicate with each other. Co-operative learning activities are a great way for students to learn these skills in a safe setting.
One of my favourite go-to co-operative learning strategies is the Placemat. So simple and so easy! I usually group students in 3 or 4 – any more than that and it all gets a bit hard to manage. Whatever the topic is, students have 1-3 minutes of silent thinking time. They then quietly jot their thoughts down in their own section (the triangle-like shapes on the outside of the placemat) for about 2-3 minutes. After that, each student shares their writing with their group – no interrupting! I usually only allow about 1 minute per student. Finally, the group puts their combined ideas in the centre oval – I always get just one student to scribe this.
When all of the groups are finished, (a timer is a really good idea to keep things on track) each group shares what they have written in the centre circle. Completed placemats are a great classroom display too!
I really hope this has helped someone out there and I hope you give it a go. It’s totally worth it! If you would like a free copy of my A3 placemat just click this link to download one for FREE from my TpT store: FREE Co-operative Learning Placemat.