During the weekend I spent learning about the theories and structures of cooperative learning, I was captivated by five components of cooperative learning. I intend to use these five in my own classroom. They begin with the introduction games Pleased to Meet You and Knotting Acquaintance followed by the creation of base groups and finally STAD and TGT. These are five basic, yet exciting ways to use cooperative groups in the classroom.
I will use the first two introduction games at the start of the school year, because students are nervous about the start of school and these games are great for breaking the ice. I would start with the pleased to meet you form. This gets students talking amongst one another and opens the door for the new students to see that they have things in common with their new peers. Once they have had ample time to complete the questionnaire I would have them take a seat and tell me about some of the common traits they shared. After we spent a few minutes talking about the importance of working as a team and learning to count or your partners we would work through the Knotting Acquaintance activity. This would show me who the leaders were, who the analyzers were and who was simply going to follow the others. This is another activity that will help the new students become a part of the group. By feeling comfortable in the classroom the new students will feel less shock about being in a new school and will assimilate to their new culture.
By the third day of school I will have the students assigned to base groups. I like the base group because it gives the students a home. The base groups help open the door to getting the cooperative learning going. The length of time that the base groups will stay together depends on the climate in the classroom. If I have selected well and the groups have been successful I might be inclined to let them work together up to the midpoint of the school year. The base groups will merely serve as a home. Depending on the activity the class is doing I will use ad-hoc groups and Formal learning groups.
In the Formal learning groups, as well as in the ad-hoc and the base groups, I will employ two types of group activities the STAD system and the TGT system.
The Student Team-Achievement System (STAD) is a five-part system with proven effectiveness in Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics and Science. The groups are set up heterogeneously and presented with new material. The next step is to have the learners practice the material within their group. It is the responsibility of the group to be sure all group members have received the information and have a clear understanding of it. Once the groups have had sufficient time to practice, the teacher gives the students individual quizzes. The quizzes are scored and the learners earn points for their group. The points earned by the group members are based on their level of improvement over their base score; their average score on the previous quizzes. The base score could also be established by giving a pretest over the new material. Either way of determining the base score is acceptable as long as the students know what to expect. The points the students earn for their group are tallied and then awards are given to the teams who achieved the greatest gains. Awards are also given to the individual students with the most improvements. All the teams receive some type of recognition so no student or team has their self esteem lowered.
The final approach I will use in my classroom is the Teams-Games-Tournaments (TGT) system. This is my personal favorite because of the element of competition that is a driving force for many students, like myself. The principle nature of TGT is the same as that of STAD but instead of receiving quizzes at the end of each week the students play in a quiz tournament. The tournament is kept fair by sending the high performers to one table, the middle performers to another table and so on. To keep the level of competition up and so students do not always compete against the same players the winner of each table is moved to the next highest performing table. The players with fewer points move to the next lower table. The students are not told which is the high performing table and which is not they are simply told that the competitions are fair. As with STAD each player at a tournament table is playing for the benefit of the base group. Students earn points for their respective teams and also earn the right to get the rewards that come with earning the most points.
These are five of the high-quality cooperative learning strategies I picked up during my cooperative education class. There are many more out there and I intend to do more research and learn more about cooperative learning, but in the mean time I will put these ways of using cooperative education to good use in my fieldwork and during my student teaching.