Collaborative Learning Activity for Busy Teachers

I had the day planned out. Give my write a multiple choice quiz test review assignment and sit in the front of the room and grade papers. Then I heard the new administrator was prowling the halls looking for teachers to scare. I also heard he was a big fan of collaborative learning.

This is what I came up with.

I’ll start with the preparation and procedures since that’s what most of you really want.

PoePreparation. Think of 4-8 topics you’ve recently studied. As soon as the bell rings assign each student a number corresponding to a specific thing you’re reviewing. Since we had just finished an Edgar Allan Poe unit, dividing topics was easy. I wrote each topic on the board.

Procedures. Now that each student’s been assigned a number, you may begin.

  1. Each student should create 2 multiple choice questions based on the category they’ve been assigned.
  2. After a few minutes, instruct students to arrange the desks into groups of 4-5, depending on how you assigned the numbers.
  3. After the desks have been satisfactorily arranged, assign groups to each cluster.
  4. As a group students write a 12-question multiple choice quiz as a team.
  5. Assign categories for questions. For example, the Poe quiz had to contain the following: (1) two questions about plot; (2) two questions about theme; (3) two questions about suspense; (4) two questions about figurative language; (5) two questions about imagery or symbolism; (6) two questions about language acquisition.
  6. Once the quizzes are created, make sure each student has a copy. This can easily be accomplished by cell phone cameras, a quick run to the copy machine, or the old fashion way of each group member writing the question by hand.
  7. Assign each student on each group a letter. The number of letters should be determined by the following formula: # of students in class / # of stories or concepts you’re reviewing. In this case 6. The class in question has 39 students (can’t figure out why public education isn’t what it used to be) so I formed 7 groups (a-g).
  8. Reassign groups by letter. If you did it correctly, each person in each group should have a different story/quiz.
  9. Each student will have 2-3 minutes to quiz and instruct their fellow reassigned group members.

Alternatives. You’ve probably recognized that this is a jigsaw activity. You don’t necessarily need quizzes. It can be notes, story maps, or a combination of things. Here’s a story map graphic organizer, if you choose that option: Short Story Map.

And now for the all important (to your administrator and local politician) common core objectives…

  • RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
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