Monday, February 20, 2012

Rituals and Routines in Cooperative Learning

Type in "Rituals and Routines in the Classroom" into Google and the first 20 resources on this day were all geared towards early childhood education. Early in a student's development weeks are spent inside the classroom creating and practicing routines and rituals to create order and student comfort. As our students grow older their natural development is towards autonomy and individuality. As teachers we support this growth by permitting and creating opportunities for autonomy and as such our expectations rise incrementally as our students mature. 

In today's classroom I still see the need for rituals and routines. Certainly we don't need 10th graders lining up at the door before dismissal for lunch, but we must not ignore the value of rituals and routines. When a second grader lines up at the classroom door, he/she knows how to behave, what to expect, and how to perform. This creates community. When someone is out of established norms, community members are very quick to redirect that behavior or share what they are supposed to be doing. 

In this series of posts, I will share some ideas you may want to use to promote rituals and routines that will make your classroom more student-centered. I will look at Cooperative Learning, Lecture and Listening, and Classroom Closure.  

Cooperative Learning - By the time our students come to us in the later grades, we as teachers expect or take for granted that our students already know how to work with others. But this is an area where teachers must clarify the routines and behaviors associated with working with others. The collaboration rituals could be used with turn and talk opportunities or large group extension projects.

Situating the Task - I believe the way we deliver information like a group activity, the delivery of the task can and should be ritualized. Doing so situates the activities familiarity, and students begin to recall expectations and behaviors even before they enter the group. 
    • Getting your Attention: Use the repetition of language, music, or noise. Using statements like, "Ok ladies and gentlemen we are going to get close", or "Let's get our group learn on", or "Let's discover what the group thinks." You can do the same with using the same song, a bell, or even a video. 
    •  The key is to use the same process over and over. Soon you will see the appropriate behaviors that are expected as you introduce the task. 
    • Before you Group: Explain to them clearly and slowly why this particular activity is appropriate for group work. Students who may not see value in a group activity may benefit from the reasoning. Identify what they as individuals will be doing inside the group. Finally be very clear on what the group is to produce or how they are to arrive at an outcome. 
    • While you are in Group: Explain to them what group work looks like: facing each other, eye contact, and body language. Tell them to introduce themselves to each other even if they know each other. Again, if it is ritual behaviors will accompany. 
Of course providing all the other great components like appropriate time, measured benchmarks, and resources for referral and redirection are just as important in the process. The point of this post is to push the idea of repetition and routine to ready (situate) the task and the learning. Here are a few links to other Collaborative ideas and sites to help you generate those great learning opportunities. 

Feel free to leave your own ideas and thoughts in the comment section. Happy learning.

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