Study Groups

When I teach a lesson as a Reading 6 teacher, I teach it one day – A Day – 5 times. Then on B day, 3 more times. Yes, 2 of my periods, called Mods at my school, are full year reading class so they come daily. Then the other 3 Mods are a semester class, every other day and on the off day, they learn a foreign language.

So today I taught a lesson for the 6th, 7th and 8th time today. It was Session 14 in the new Social Issues Book Club unit, part of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading in Middle School. They suggest to have the kids reflect on this video on vimeo called Bystander, using the words victim, perpetrator, bystander and upstander.

I wanted the students to have the 4 words defined and name a character from books we’d read during this unit that acted like the word so I could see them apply the definition before viewing. But I also wanted this task to go quickly so I made it a competition.  “The first book club that adds these 4 words to their notebook, defines them and adds an example of a character acting as the word, gets a prize. As you work, you may share ideas/answers with your club members. Work together and let me know when all in your club have the task completed.”

Boy, did making it a competition motivate middle schoolers! “I’ll look up victim. You look up perpetrator,” I heard, “I think the dad in Stray is an upstander. Who’s a bystander?” There isn’t really a perpetrator in The Lemonade Club? said another. “Sure there is – cancer!” was the clubmate reply.

As one group announced they were done, I gave each a peppermint treat and told them to get up, take their notebooks and help the other groups finish. Within minutes, all in the room were done and ready to watch the video.  The video discussion was just as lively. But I’ll save that for tomorrow’s Slice.

Just before showing the video, I congratulated all. I told them how proud I was to see their book club working well together to get the task done. Then I gave them a tip that I learned from Mary Ehreworth at TCRWP this past summer – teach middle schoolers and high schoolers to form study groups. My tip sounded something like this:

“Readers, what you just did just then was so smart. You formed a study group and got the work done and done fast. Because you were talking and teaching and writing while completing the task, you really know these words now. In 7th and 8th grade, in High School and in college you will be given tasks to do and there will NOT be enough hours in the day to do it all. I encourage YOU to form study groups. Ask a few others to form a group. Pick a place to meet after school. Divide up the work and share answers. It isn’t cheating. It is a smart way to ensure that you get all the assignments done and learn well.” 

Today, as my 8th group collaborated together, I sat back and smiled. I wish someone had told me to collaborate more when I was a student in Middle School. High School, and College.

Did you form study groups when you were in school?
Do you encourage your students to collaborate together?



4 thoughts on “Study Groups

  1. dianeandlynne says:

    Collaboration is key. I remember the old saw: Teach me, I remember; involve me, I learn (or something like that anyway). I loved the comment about cancer being the perpetrator. These kids are thinking and learning. So, even though this was session 14, it was new! Good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wordjourneysite says:

    I had 5 sections a day when I taught 6th and 7th grade English. By the time I got to the 4th and 5th class, I had to remind myself that they had never heard the lesson and that I needed to maintain my enthusiasm. What made it fun was that each class responded differently in class discussions and group work. Listening in on group conversations was the best – I was almost always amazed by the ideas they came up with. I’m so glad you are letting them collaborate – perfect for those social middle school kids!! Love that you noted specific things the kids said.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mgminer says:

    I love this. Kids are lucky today to have collaboration built into their education. It was not a practice when I was young. I have a vivid memory of being called out for “cheating” when I thought I was just helping a classmate find spot we were working on in our geography workbooks. I love how you share the things that inspire you and your successes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. amyjuengst says:

    I miss teaching within a block schedule because it afforded me the flexibility to offer students more independent reading time as well as peer collaboration opportunities. Book clubs are the perfect solution to the limitations caused by short class periods.

    I remember completing a lot of grammar worksheets in 7th and 8th grade. We sat in straight rows and never were encouraged to talk with peers unless we were exchanging handouts for in-class grading, and book groups meant popcorn reading from our anthology.

    Liked by 1 person

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