Monday, May 27, 2013

Common Core PLUS Cooperative Learning--A Very Powerful Combination for Reaching Academic Struggling Students

Common core based lessons call for far more student interaction than in the past.  Before students are strong enough to tackle analyzing academically challenging informational text on their own, they require time to process content with peers.  This is especially true of long-term English language learners along with ELLs and students with special needs (special education students). 

So, what is a teacher to do in this setting?  Cooperative learning! With the focus of common core on leading students to become independent, highly literate lifelong learners, teachers must allot time in class for students to begin the process of questioning and analyzing text.  This may be new for many teachers so including "mini-steps" to assist students in getting there is paramount.  Cooperative learning strategies accomplish this with ease AND students enjoy it:)

The attachment covers some popular ones, but there are many more.  One personal favorite for me is THINK-PAIR-SHARE.  Here students are paired up with more proficient students to discuss their opinions on a topic or clarify their understanding of a subject, etc.  When academically weak students are allotted time in class to discuss ideas with another person, they build a deeper understanding of the subject matter.  How might the discussion be carried out for students with weak backgrounds in academic language?  Academic sentence starters and sentence frames!   Another great activity is numbered heads together.  Teacher divides the class into 6 groups (home table groups).  Then the teacher has students count off 1-6.  All the number ones form one group, all the twos another, and so on.  Reading assignment is then split up into 6 sections with each group tackling one part of it.  Each group here becomes the EXPERT group on their assigned section.  They process the information by discussing the contents and taking notes.  They, in turn, make sure that each member of the group fully understands the content.  Students then return to their home table groups where they teach their partners about their assigned sections. 

The list attached is only a sampling of what is out there.  The academically weaker students will grow in their academic language proficiency and have fun along the way.  Try a few new techniques--I guarantee your students will truly enjoy the process:) 



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