Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cooperative Learning

So after my last post, I thought we might need to lighten the mood a bit, yes?

You may remember that I tend to gather together some kids during their lunch period. They do little chores for me, read, chitchat, do homework, whatever. They're grateful for a quiet, cool place to hang out and I get some things done, so it's a win-win situation.

I had quite a lot to do during my lunch period the other day, and while I thought about closing my room, I had closed the room the day before and felt badly doing it two days in a row, so I let my usual gang--Drew, Caroline, Jack, and a few newcomers--join me.

Now, I had some things for them to do, and usually, in the interests of inquiry and student-centered learning and what have you, I simply set them some tasks and allow them to divide the tasks the way they like. I sat at my desk grading papers, which I desperately needed to do.

Caroline was in her element and immediately began issuing orders. Jack, of course, did exactly as he was told. Drew messed around for a while before eventually taking part. Ida, Caroline's friend, argued with her for a few minutes over the best way to accomplish the tasks and then tried to get everyone else to agree with her.

"But I've done this before," Caroline said with her now-trademark flip of her hair. "I know how to do it."

"It doesn't matter," Ida retorted. "We could try it this way and just see if it's faster. I think it would be."

"Well, you do it your way and I'll do it mine," Caroline said.

The two girls resolved to each do it her own way. But Caroline got the boys to follow her, and within a few minutes, Ida dropped her agenda and did it Caroline's way.

It was interesting for me to just watch this exchange. It reminded me that kids usually work things out on their own, or at least that they can do that, without adults' help more often than not. It made me glad that I have such willing helpers. And it made me wonder how Caroline developed such a strong personality. I was sort of jealous.
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