Friday, September 28, 2012

Rethinking Group Work

Today I had my kids work on an open ended problem that went something like this:
Two friends are taking a trip from Los Angeles to NY.  The rental car costs 15 cents per mile and $25 per day.  They plan to stay 1 week.  How much will their trip cost?

Now usually I would give them roles such as leader, time keeper, supply manager, recorder etc.  But today I decided to try something different. 

I've been bothered by the kids that even though they have a "job" do not participate in the problem. So I broke the problem up into 4 parts basically: 1. Write a verbal model to help us answer this question  2.  Calculate the cost of the rental car.  3. What are the other expenses the two friends will incur?  4. What are other ways they could travel to NY? (This was just extra, but I wanted to have 4 groups) 

Then I had each student count out from 1-4 and all the 1's worked on the first task, all the 2's on the second and so on.  Each student was responsible for making sure they had something to bring back to their table.  It was so awesome hearing them all engaged with their task.  Even my sped kids were busy making sure they had the notes copied correctly and understood what they needed to explain back at their groups.

After about 20 minutes they returned back to their tables and shared out what they found.  They had about 15 minutes to share their notes and then another 20 to write up their answers.  They were told that their answers had to be in their own words and if any papers were exactly the same they would get a zero.

The responses were really good. My students would always write down the bare minimum.  For a question like this I wouldn't be surprised to get a paper back from a kid who "worked" on it for 45 minutes with the only thing written down  -->   $945  These kids were running out of room on the paper and asking if they should attach another sheet or write more on the back!!!  YEA!!!!!  I am really excited about doing this again and more often!!!

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