Collaborative Supports for Students

2014-02-24 13.21.35Summer is filled with anxiously awaited personal hobbies, trips and fun; however, amongst every teacher’s planning of those sweet summer days includes some thought, reading or internet surfing as they start to prepare for a fresh new year. I have marveled at the plethora of great information that is skipping across my computer–great articles on personalized learning, project based learning, 21st Century classrooms and much, much more. Today, I was inspired to expand on a tenet of Project Based Learning that resonated in the Edutopia article, Five Keys to Rigorous Project Based Learning. One of the “keys” is an affirmation in regard to working with students, especially primary ones. It is the explicit need to teach, coach and support STRUCTURED collaboration. Still, so many label innovative and novel classrooms as unstructured, with kids completely doing magical inquiry with no guidelines, just being amazing (or not….) because the environment or teacher is one of the “innovative ones.”

Well —- I can attest to the fact that rigorous and purposeful collaboration does not magically happen in second grade. Most students do not have the skills to work together, and socially and developmentally they are unable to understand the give and take of working with others. These skills need to be modeled, guided and revisited, ad nauseum.

This hits upon the same tune that I sing throughout this blog, which is that notion of primary teachers living in the journey part of student growth. In other words, we mingle in the messy, sometimes chaotic world of students trying new things for the first time, trying again and again, getting better and better.

Our “house or common place” is not necessarily the shiny destination of complete mastery. We are the road.

I am posing the question: Is is best for students to experience assigned collaborative roles as they become collaborators? Do young students gain confidence in the “structure” of a modeled and understood role for their first collaborative attempts? The Teaching Channel details structured collaboration in this video:


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