Is it off task?

After several weeks of reading and taking notes on natural disasters,  I told students that they would have the choice between teaching what they had learned with a game board or game show. The magical word game (thank you, Shana Frazin) got 100% buy-in. Engagement skyrocketed as students wrote the dialogue for their game show or designed their board, cards, and playing pieces.

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And on the day of the gameplay, all had a great time.

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But, was it learning? How much of the work was off task?

After the games were cleaned up, I asked the students to write me a brief note sharing what they had learned. And to be honest. I told them this was for me to know if this was an effective way to learn. I asked them to be specific. What did they learn, either from another team or from the creation of their game?

The majority mentioned specific content learning, and few said what they learned about working with others.

S–‘s comment was one that I thought captured the essence of group work and talk that can seem silly at times. 

Our group did get a little off-task because of finding out who was the youngest, but that was kind of it. I think this was a good way of learning because we students look forward to it.

Students looked forward to it. And they found out who was the youngest. While the latter might not be “on-task” as S– commented, is that talk a bad thing? Isn’t getting to know each other what makes for beautiful partnerships and teams? My own experience in group work has led me to believe that some of the best collaborative thinking is done when trust and friendship are high. How many times have I laughed about something silly with my grade-level colleagues and then gotten right back to reading student work or planning a unit of study? Having a safe and welcoming group of partners makes for excellent working conditions. Our kiddos have the same needs.