Group Work, Assessments, and Final Project

This week, I read chapters 7 and 8 in Tovani’s Do I Really Have to Teach Learning? The more I read this book, the more I come to appreciate it and the more I want to keep it as something that will go in my classroom in the future so that I can keep referring to it and using these strategies and ideas she gives us.

Chapter 7 talked a lot about group work, something that as a middle grades education major we have talked about A LOT. As a student, I have mixed feelings about group work. I used to enjoy it when I was younger, but I HATE group work in college. I know it’s very beneficial, but in college it is so hard to schedule times out of class for everyone in the group to meet, and my thinking is “we are all old enough now that we know how to work with people, so why do we have to work in a group?” However, I understand teachers have their reasons. Group work really does teach students how to work with others, and that is something they will be doing for their entire life, so therefore it is very important to implement group work in the classroom

One thing I really liked that Tovani said was on page 90, “how are teachers supposed to teach their content and reading when they have classes of thirty or more filled with such a wide range of readers?…The answer is small, flexible groups.” I thought this was very interesting and also very smart. It’s very hard to teach to a big class because Tovani is right, there will be such a ride range of readers and learners. Group work helps with this. It allows the teacher the option to split students up into groups in many different ways. I really liked the Highlight and Revisit comprehension constructor strategy she used. In this strategy, “students read and highlight individually a short piece of text a teacher gives to everyone in the class. In groups, they write down in the first column the exact words highlighted by someone in the group, reasons for the highlighting, and the deeper thinking that comes from considering the quote. This activity usually results in students seeing similar points being highlighted by their peers, as well as some unique choices that spark new discussion” (95). I really like how this activity allows students to be active readers on their own but then also learn from their classmates by sharing what they thought was important. 

Chapter 8 talked a little about assessment and how teachers can assess their students in the classroom everyday, and not just when tests are given. I like how Tovani said she “wants to assess my students’ thinking in a way that informs my teaching.” I think this is very important. Teachers have to be willing to adjust and compromise their teaching style. A way to know if your teaching style is working is assessing your students and their thinking. She says that she looks at how students use strategies as a way of assessing them. I also really like the conversation calendar. I think this is a great way to get to know your students without having to put them on the spot in the classroom. It also makes them think about their performance in the classroom by having to give themselves a daily grade. 

For my final project, I am thinking about doing something with a strategy. Whether that is a class presentation, a “booklet”, or a podcast, I am still thinking. I will probably know by the end of class time today as I am sure it is something we will talk about. 

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