Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Getting Along is Hard To Do, part 2.

Last week I wrote about some of my groups who were having problems working together. Well, after all the sixth graders finished their presentations, I took the last few minutes of class to make a list on chart paper of tips for PowerPoint presentations. The idea was to make a list of things they learned about using the program, giving a presentation, and working together while it is all still fresh in their minds, then post it the next time we do a similar project. One of the groups that had experienced the most problems working together volunteered lots of contrite statements about teamwork. I reinforced this point by suggesting that the groups that had trouble cooperating ended up running out of time. This particular group did not finish their slide show and was very disorganized presenting.

So, the group project is over, at least for the sixth graders, but I got one last comment from a student in that problem group. She approached me after class and said, "My group members say they learned how to work together, but really they didn't. I knew what to do and told them, but they wouldn't listen. They never listen. They didn't learn anything."

Now, 50% of the problems in this group arose from this girl's bossiness and insistence that she was always right and all the problems lay with her teammates! I suppressed the urge to laugh hysterically and say, "Honey, you didn't learn anything either!"

Another relevant fact: This same girl was responsible for changing the background of their slides multiple times and adding gorgeous clip art to several slides - before they finished typing all the slides, and over the protests of her teammates.

I was nice. I patted her on the shoulder and told her I would be keeping a close eye on each of the students in her group when they start the next project.

The lesson for me: I need to find ways to really teach the students how to cooperate, so that they learn from their mistakes and problems. I would love concrete suggestions from other teachers, 'cause this is a problem I have struggled with for my whole teaching career.

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