Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cooperative Learning + Freebie

Hey there teacher friends! I'm not even going to start making excuses for being an absent blogger because (a) I know you all know just how busy the beginning of the year can be and (b) it would not be very proactive of me to make excuses (habit #1, if you remember!). So with that, I'm going to share a few things with y'all that I made and used to get the year started.

A few years ago, I went to a Kagan training with a few other teachers from my school. Ever since then, I've made a conscious effort to incorporate cooperative learning strategies into my lessons. One of the very easiest ways to encourage cooperative learning is to set up your classroom desks in groups, not rows. In my room, if you remember, I have round tables instead of desks, and I chose those on purpose because I love how easily they lend themselves for group work and student participation. At the training, I learned how giving students roles and assigned partners within their groups would also help foster the cooperative learning style, so I made these table mats to help my students remember their roles:

This is how the mats work: you can see that each student has a number as well as a letter assignment and two partner assignments. Because of this, if you ever needed to have students get supplies or record their answers while working with their table group, all you have to do is assign a number to a certain job - say, all kids who are #4 would be the record keepers. The numbers and letters also help if you ever want to mix up the way the kids are grouped - you could have all the letter As stand up and then find a partner with someone who is standing OR with someone who is sitting, or you could group all the ones together, all the twos, and so on, so that the kids get to work with a group other than those kids at their table. Shoulder partners and face partners are just terms that help kids remember who to talk to if you ever ask students to share their thoughts, predictions, or connections during a lesson.   

I laminated these mats and put them in the center of each group's table. My table groups are named and also have a color, so I made each mat match the table's color. I made these round to match my round tables, but I also created rectangular table mats for those of you who have long tables or clustered desks. If you are interested in using cooperative learning table mats in your classroom, you can find them here for just $1 in my TpT store! The file includes both the round and rectangular mats in five colors! 

Now, about that freebie: when I started my reading lessons this year, I made sure to spend a lot of time discussing with my class what it means to pick a just right book. Since my third graders aren't really learning to read anymore (they're reading to learn!), they are much more free to pick books. However, I wanted to be sure they were choosing books that were not only on their level, but books that they'd enjoy and be able to understand. That's where the I PICK phrase comes in. This little acrostic comes from the 2 Sisters, and it stands for:

To help my students remember the phrase, I made these bookmarks for them to fill out and color. I gave my kids the blank ones (with just letters) because I wanted them to complete the phrase themselves - I figured if they had to write what the letters mean, they'd be more prone to remember it! Here are a few examples of what my students came up with:

I know that not everyone's kiddos will be ready or able to write in the phrase themselves, so I also made a version that has the phrase included. I love seeing my kids use these in their books, and most of my students have been doing a great job choosing books that are just right for them. If you'd like to use these bookmarks in your class, you can download them for free here in my TpT store!

I hope your weekend was wonderful, and that you and your class are having a great start to your year!