My students have around two and a half weeks of school left.  Standardized testing has finished up and I’m planning out the end of May.  Each one of my math classes will be taking one more unit assessment before the end of May.  My fourth grade class has been exploring measurement conversions, computation, and graphing.  For the past week my students have been participating in group work where they’re given a task, anchor chart paper, (sometimes I split one sheet in half or quarters) and Expo markers.  Students work together to create a plan, create visual models, and report out the results.  Below is the structure that I’ve been following.

First, the teacher reviews the task with the entire class.  Students ask questions and clarification is given.  The tasks are often open-ended and require additional thought and reasoning beyond a yes/no answer.  Usually students need to construct a plan and present the best option.

The teacher reviews the expectations.  Often I have the students show the steps needed to solve the problem, create a visual model, create a number model, and present their solution to the class.

Students are then placed in groups randomly.  I’ve been using the randomizer script this year to create groups.  Using a visible random grouping strategy seems to help here.

Students are assigned specific parts of the room to start the task.  Students are given some anchor chart paper and a bunch of markers.  Markers are used to put together a thorough response that’ll be shared with the class.  I set the Google countdown timer for 20-30 minutes and display it on the board.

I tend to listen to the discussion in each group and ask questions when needed.  I also try not to talk as much during this time.  Students create some type of rough draft on notebook paper before creating their chart.  When finished, the charts have visual models, number models, and are often messy.  I have no problem with that.  Math is and can be messy.  Students often scratch out number models that didn’t work or change units when needed.  They assign each other roles and determine the sequence for their presentation.  The presentations are no more than five minutes and includes a verbal explanation of how they found a solution.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the alarms sounds students then present their findings to the class.  Part of the criteria is that all students are required to help when presenting to their peers.  Students are then given time to ask questions.  Each group presents and I hang up the charts all over the room.  I then model and review the answer with the students.  By then the class is just about finished and we’re on to the next lesson.

I’m finding that these types of  group activities to be great opportunities for students.  The collaboration and conversations that occur during these events are sometimes undervalued.  Students seem to be empowered to find the solution for themselves.  I provide scaffolding when needed, but I tend to let the students struggle through and find the best solution.  I find students using math vocabulary and critical thinking about the answer as they create number models and visual representations.  I’m hoping to include more of these opportunities in my planning for next school year.