Starting in February, 3rd through 5th graders were put into groups of 3 or 4 to collaborate on author studies. They were given guidelines on what information they need to include in their final presentations, and groups were given graphic organizers to take notes on. I taught a lesson on collaborating using Google Slides, where group leaders have to create the initial document and share it with group members using school email addresses. Group leaders also have to work with their members to figure out who will work on each slide: one introducing the author, one on his/her life, one on his/her writing, etc.
Group Assignments: I made up the groups based on what I know about the students’ personalities and performance. Though the students groaned a little about not being able to work with their friends, I wanted each group to have a good mix of high and low kids. Because there is a considerable ELL population at the school, I also made sure they didn’t end up in their own group.
Working in Google Slides: Setting up the project in Google Slides proved to be a big learning curve for the students, even for those who are usually tech-savvy. We also ran into problems where students were working outside their assigned slides, or deleting them accidentally/on purpose. Even though Google apps have a “See revision history” function that allowed us to restore lost work, it still created some tension among the students. This was a good way for students to learn what it’s like to collaborate in the “real world”: they needed to be responsible and accountable not only to and for themselves but to and for their teammates as well. In the real world, even if honest mistakes can be reverted, one still has to deal with possible repercussions.
Group Dynamics: Because students did not get to choose their teammates, certain groups worked more effectively than others. I allowed students to decide their roles on their own based on how confident they are about their abilities to create and share Google Slides, as well as their ability to lead other group members. For the most part, the natural leaders of each group emerged and were able to help their members stay on task effectively. Some groups, on the other hand, did not work well together at all, and the constant battle within the group are clearly reflected in their finished products/presentations. There is usually a lack of content, effort, and cohesiveness.
As we come to the end of this group project, I posted a survey in Google Classroom for each of the students to complete. I am hoping that this final piece of the assignment will not only give me insight as to the success (or lack thereof) of their collaboration process, but also allow the students to assess their own contribution (or lack thereof) to this experience. Findings will be posted soon!
For more on assessing collaboration, see:
Siko, Jason. “Assessing Collaboration: More Than Just Lip Service.”MACUL Journal Winter 36.2 (2016): 8-9. Web.