Ok, now I think it’s obvious that my creativity is drained! Only six more days to go…I wonder what crazy titles I can think of before then!

As far as student collaboration goes, I would like to start with the things, I have found, that do not facilitate collaboration between students.

1. “Talk about ______.”  
Simply telling students to do something is not enough.

2. Come to a consensus and tell me why.
This can be a compelling prompt, but not without some work first. I will explain more in a moment.

3. Find and fix each others’ mistakes.
Students are often not equipped with the tools to find one another’s mistakes. If a student does not know that he or she is making a mistake in the first place, then how can he or she scaffold for another student.

Now for the “fixes,” in other words, what successful student collaboration should look like:

1. While students discuss ________, they complete this task:____________.
Students should always have something to do. This doesn’t mean they always have to have paper and pencil or a computer. But have them talk about specifics. Have them talk about something, and then make a mental list. Or they could come up with more questions. Let them fill in a graphic organizer. SOMETHING, just something. I teach teenagers, and developmentally speaking, teenager care about two things: themselves and their social lives. Leave them to their own devices, and that’s what they immediately resort to talking about.

2. Students evaluate the evidence, come to a consensus, then tell me why.
This is very similar to #1, but I see this happen all of the time. Teachers give students the “come to a consensus prompt,” but they don’t really have anything to work with. We often expect the students to already be equipped with the information that they need to infer the deeper meaning of both sides. If the teacher provides the perspectives beforehand, then the students have the information they need to debate their own point of view.

3. Students talk about what they like about the partner’s work.
This was the central topic of a recent issue of CASLS InterCom, but I cannot remember the exact name of the author. Feel free to chime in if you remember! This article dealt with this issue of students being unable to correct revise the errors of their peers in writing. Instead, the article offered a different approach to peer review: focus on the content and organization. If you get students talking to each other about what they liked about a piece of writing and why, then they will begin to discuss the flow of the writing (organization) and whether or not they could understand it, even whether or not it got their attention, or it was boring (content). These are the areas in which students can, in fact, scaffold for one another.

The most important outcome in student-to-student collaboration, not mentioned above, should be deeper understanding. Working together should allow students the opportunity to create questions that they would not come up with on their own, and therefore have the ability to dig deeper into the content than they would without a partner.

Let’s face it, though, in Spanish 1 and 2, often the greatest outcome from student to student collaboration is one student marking down that the other asked five questions today, one more than yesterday!

Buena suerte,

Profe C