Ever wish that group work in your classroom was just a little easier to manage? These five wireless classroom methods show you how to form and monitor groups while facilitating your students' best work.
National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Teachers (International Society for Technology in Education), Standard V. Productivity and Professional Practice/C. Apply technology to increase productivity.
Work Group Checklists
Mindsurf Method 1: Random Grouping
This tool works better than a deck of cards to create random groups while reinforcing your students' grasp of fractions represented as decimals.
- Download the Randomizer tool. This is actually a very simple Excel workbook set up to generate a different random number between 0 and 1 each time the workbook is opened.
- Beam the Randomizer to each of your students.
- The next time you need to form groups, have everyone open their Randomizers. Then:
- Form two teams by dividing the class between even and odd numbers, or greater than/less than .50.
- Form multiple teams by having students group themselves by ranges. For example, form four teams by placing .01 to .24 in one group, .25 to .49 in a second group, .50 to .74 in a third group, and .75 to .99 in a fourth group. (You can add an extra challenge by expressing your rules as percents.)
- You can also let students make up their own rules for grouping using their random numbers.
- The Randomizer can be used to call on students for answers in class. For example, "Let me hear from someone with a Randomizer between .10 and .20."
- The number is currently formatted to round to two decimals, but you can alter it to show greater precision-and, therefore, greater variety. Just touch cell A2, select Format>Cells>Number, and increase the decimal places.
Mindsurf Method 2: Perfect Pairs
Materials: Matcher Files (see 2 Pocket Excel downloads) Here's an easy graphic way to pair your students up.
- Download the Matcher 1 and Matcher 2 files onto your handheld.
- Beam Matcher 1 to half of your students, Matcher 2 to the other half.
- The next time you need to form pairs, have students go to Programs>Pocket Excel, and open their Matcher file.
- Assign each sun to pair up with another sun and each lightning bolt to pair up with another lightning bolt. Or you could have students match themselves up with a student who has the other image.
- To mix up your pairings, occasionally create new symbols to replace the Matcher files on an even number of your students' handhelds.
Mindsurf Method 3: Job Assignment/Assessment
Experience shows that students work best in groups when each member of the team has a specific, accountable role. Here's how to accomplish this.
- Make a list of the common roles you want students to play in most group-work situations. These may include Recorder, Resource Manager, Spokesperson, Fact Checker, and so on.
- Download the Job Description Template, and enter the role and duties for the first role on your list. Make sure the duties described are generic enough to apply to most projects. If desired, adjust the assessment score value (which is set at 5 points for top performance) to match your own grading scale. Save this job description with the name of the role it describes.
- Repeat for each of the other roles.
- After you have formed student work groups, beam each job description to the person in the group who will be performing that role-either by their choice or yours.
- When the project is complete, each group member should complete the self-assessment (at the bottom of the "YourJob Sheet") and "Teammate Assessment Sheet" (separate tab within the Excel Spreadsheet), then go to Tools>Save Worksheet As to save it under his or her own name. Each student should beam it to you for consideration in evaluating the overall project.
Mindsurf Method 4: Collaborative Documents
Here are some tricks to facilitate group work on reports and other documents.
- Each team should designate an "Editor" and one handheld to be the "Editing Station" for collecting documents from everyone on the team.
- Contributing teammates should select a unique font or color for their documents before beaming their work to the editing station. To chose font or color, go to Edit>Select All, then Edit>Format>Font or Edit>Format>Line/Font.
- Make sure all documents beamed to the editing station have unique filenames so documents don't accidentally replace each other.
- Once all documents are collected on one handheld, the Editor should merge all the documents into one. To copy and paste, open the first document and go to Edit>Select All, then Edit>Copy.
- Create a new Blank Document, then select Edit>Paste to add the first contribution. Give the file a unique team name under Tools>Save Document As.
- The Editor should open each remaining document, and repeat Step 4 to include everyone's work, which should appear in the distinctive fonts and colors chosen in Step 2.
- The team can now edit and fine-tune its document together.
- When editing is complete, students should go to Edit>Select All, then Edit>Format to choose the final font and color (ideally, black).
- The Editor is responsible for beaming the group's work to the teacher.
Mindsurf Method 5: Work Group Checklists
This handy self-assessment checklist also appears in the Teaching Method called "Five for Five." It can help keep student work groups focused on correctly completing the tasks at hand and also gives you a sense of how well they understand the assignment.
- On your handheld, go to Programs, select File Explorer, and choose Edit>New Folder to create a new folder. Name this folder Checklists
- Download the Checklist Template Excel spreadsheet and save it in the Checklists folder on your handheld.
- Before each class in which you'll use group activities, launch Pocket Excel, select Checklists, and open the Checklist Template file.
- Modify the checklist to reflect the day's group activity.
- Go to Tools>Save Workbook As. On the Save As screen, type in Checklist[date] as the Name, and choose Checklists as the folder. Click OK.
- When your students have formed their work groups, beam one member of each group (the designated Recorder) the checklist. This student will be responsible for recording the group's progress on each task, including the group's self-assessment of its work.
- At the end of group work, each group should verify its completed checklist, then go to Tools>Save Workbook As and add the group name to the file name.
- The group should beam the checklist to you for consideration as you hear the group's report or assess its final product.