Lauralee,The Language Arts Classroom: Before students start cooperative learning, I ask them to brainstorm what it should look like. Chances are that they know the answer and have reviewed these rules before. It is a good chance to remind students and to correct misconceptions.
For classes that frequently work together, a reminder chart (perhaps laminated) of “”what cooperating work is”” and “”what cooperating work isn’t”” helps too.
I encourage MI tasks in teams that use and develop student strengths as a way to increase their interest and focus. For instance, verbal IQ develops by communicating more. So I might ask: What if you draft and submit a letter to the editor?
For visually stronger students, I might ask – What if you sketch, photograph your best idea? Visual IQ develops focus by designing images.
We also know that Kinesthetic IQ grows focus by moving & building, so I ask: .What if you build a model of an improved plan?
Those who love the social interaction focus better in teams when I ask questions such as: What if you invite a peer to a lunch discussion? Interpersonal IQ increases focus by growing relationships that offer meaningful takeaways.
Kimberly, OC Beach Teacher:
One way I keep them focused is by making them all accountable. I used to have them respond in writing on one paper during two of my favorite cooperative learning activities, “numbered heads” and “trashketball.” Now, I ask each student to submit his/her own answers in writing although the group can work together as a team to develop their answers. It helps to involve the students who used to just sit there and let the better students do all of the work.