Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Peer Collaboration

I am so excited to be linking up with the Primary Gal's "Learn Like a Pirate" book study today. Last year, I read Dave Burgess' "Teach Like a Pirate", so I was really excited when I saw that there was going to be a new installment in the series by Paul Solarz. Solarz has not disappointed and this is now one of my favorite professional books I have read! The ideas and concepts that Solarz discuss in his book are scary. They make me nervous, but they also make me very excited to implement them! So, without further ado, let's jump into chapter three for some ideas on peer collaboration.

What is collaboration? According to Solarz, "Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing by ourselves." It empowers us to think differently, access information we wouldn't have otherwise, and combine ideas as we work together towards a shared goal. But, how do we teach and empower students to collaborate and to lead?

The first strategy that Solarz discusses is the "Give Me Five". Let me just say, that I felt my heart skip a beat when I read this section! The only thought racing through my mind was, "He wants me to do WHAT?" But, after some serious reflection, I realized that Solarz was right. As teachers we are always using attention grabbers in our classroom, but what would happen if we gave that power to the students?

Solarz teaches his students how use the "Give Me Five" attention grabber and how to use that power wisely. He spends the first few weeks showing appreciation for the students who use the strategy in the correct contexts, models when the strategy could have been used, and has discussions with students about respecting this power. He also provides immediate feedback for students who ignore the call from their fellow peer. But, the biggest thing he reminds teachers of, is to be proud that a student took the risk to lead the class!

While I am still a little bit nervous about how this will look in my classroom, I know that I am willing to take that risk and hand that power over to my students. I want them to be empowered to lead. I want them to be willing to take risks. I want them to know that what they think and have to say is important.

The second strategy that Solarz shares is the idea of setting a class goal each day for the following day. I love this idea! Last year, I started having my students write weekly SMART goals after reading through these blogs posts by 3rd Grade Thoughts. If you haven't checked them out, I highly suggest you do! They truly changed my teaching. My students were excited about writing their goals, sharing their progress, and reflecting on what they could improve on. I don't know if I will have enough time to have my class set a goal for each day, but I am thinking of them set a class goal for each week on Friday afternoons. This will give us enough time to truly work towards that goal and reflect on our progress. I'll have to keep you updated on how it goes!

The next strategy that Solarz discusses is classroom layout. He starts off by encouraging teachers to analyze their classroom needs and how students will use the space. In my classroom, I strongly encourage my students to find spots that work for them to learn in. If you walk into my room at any time, you will find students sitting on the floor, at their tables (I don't have desks!), on the counter, at our teacher table, or standing. Since I am a 1:1 Chromebook classroom, I do allow my students to take their laptops with them - yes, even on the floor! - as long as they are responsible for them. I am always amazed at how much more my students learn and are engaged when they get to choose where they are learning.

The final strategy that Solarz talks about is assigning partnerships. He states, "Random partnerships help build strong student relationships amongst everyone in the room." As I thought about what he said, I realized how right he was. I have let my students choose their partners too often and, in doing so, watched them only pair up with their close friends. This is so limiting to them in so many ways! They are not interacting with new people, learning how to work with someone who they might not get along with, and hearing new ideas. Someone is always left out and it is my fault as a teacher. I need to take on more of the responsibility of assigning partnerships.

Some ideas I have for this are the famous pulling sticks, as Solarz mentions, as well as these "Find-a-Partner" cards that I found on TPT and, the best part, they are FREE! My plan is to print, laminate, and cut out each set. Then, I will place each set on a ring and put them in my "Pick a Partner" bucket at the front of my room. This way they are always easy to get to!

If you have any other great ideas for forming partnerships, please comment below! I look forward to hearing from you and cannot wait to link up next week to talk about improvement focus v. grade focus.

Want to hear what others are saying? Head on over the the Primary Gal to see what everyone is saying!

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