Online Teaching Conference 2015

I recently attended another conference, the Online Teaching Conference. Held at the San Diego Convention Center, it covered a wide variety of topics from increasing participation in online classes to free tech tools to group work in distance education classes. I’m assuming that most teachers in America (of the world, for that matter) don’t teach courses exclusively online. However, many of the ideas presented there are applicable to any teaching arena.

Online Teaching Conference

The topic I found the most interesting was the conversation about group work.  One of the suggestions was to encourage the group to not only do an “ice breaker” at the start of their team experience, but to also explore what roles each member would have in the group. After the students discuss roles, teachers can have the group decide on group rules and expectations.  This is especially important for a long-term project.

One of the teachers presenting talked about how they have their students turn in a “group expectations” page detailing what the group expected of its members. The presenter said that while they give the group a grade for turning in the page, they don’t necessarily grade the group on how closely they actually stick to their original expectations. This is often because the students set unrealistic expectations for the group. On a number of assignments, the presenter said he asks his students to revise their expectations document part-way through the project so they can make their guidelines more realistic. The presenter indicated that the times when he provides this kind of group support to his students, the groups usually do better, produce higher quality projects and get along better.

This idea makes so much sense! But, I had never thought of it! Learning how to function in a group (that you can’t always choose) is an essential skill in today’s world, and we as teachers can do a lot to help teach our students how to be a good group members.

What have you learned about working with groups (in your experience as a student or as a teacher)? Comment below!

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Math Key Word Group Project

I recently posted my addition and subtraction key words posters. Then I saw this in one upper grade teacher’s room and had an idea for a group project to review these concepts at the beginning of the year.

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Pass out a large sheet of paper to groups of 2-4 students. Then have them create a poster that shows what key words are associated with each of the 4 basic math operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Then post them on the wall as a reminder throughout the year. If you don’t have enough space to display them all, designate one spot for a poster and rotate through them throughout the year. When you switch posters to display a new group’s poster, have the group members review the key words with the whole class.

It’s Not Just “Red”… It’s “Vermilion!” (Synonyms Group Activity)

synonyms- redTeaching kids to use “good words” in their writing is hard. It’s not always easy to find a good synonym for “red” but this activity should help broaden their diction horizons. Divide your class into 10 groups. Pass out one color synonym sheet and a thesaurus to each group. Instruct each group to find as many synonyms for their color as possible. Then have them draw a border around their sheet using the color they searched. Post these somewhere in the room for a few days so students can browse the synonyms.

Click here for the PDF: synonyms- color collection

This same idea can be done with common nouns and adjectives such as “big,” “said,” “like,” “fast,” etc. Here are some photos of this idea being used in a classroom…

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