Sunday, September 16, 2012

Breaking Up Cliques In The Classroom

Marcia L. Tate is a heck of a speaker. When I saw her in Cairo a few years ago, her presentation was full of useful information packed into a high energy performance. She had the participants do something that I've been doing with my class ever since.

Growing Dendrites Since 19-Ot-12

First she had participants find a "family", four or five people to do group work with. In the presentation, this meant that participants found the people sitting next to them to be their "family." In the classroom when the family is formed, students usually find their closest friends.

Next Marcia asked each member of the family to choose between four animals. For example, "snow leopards", "owls", "snakes", and "sharks." Now we can have "animal" groups and "family" groups. The next thing she did was to have the participants set up "seasonal dates." We had to find one person outside of our family for a "summer date", "fall date", "winter date", and "spring date."
Because I felt the word "date" would not fly in elementary school, I changed it to "appointment." 

Um, Not Really What We're Going For

The beauty of this is though that the students are picking their own partners, but because often their best friends are already in their family they have to reach out to others in the class. 
I do this exercise with the children at least twice a year, and sometimes more depending on how many children leave and come in throughout the year. Every time I do it, no matter how many times they've been exposed to the exercise, they'll form their families with their closest friends first. It's just natural to do that. But by the end of the exercise after we write down our families, animals, and appointments and tape them to our desks, we have a multitude of ways to form groups and partners. All I need to say is, "Get into your spring appointments" and the children know who their partner is.

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