The Four Corners of Collaboration

Today we began content, and I was worried.  Why?  Well, we spent an entire week on team building and setting the tone, and it was a lot of fun.  Last week is a tough act to follow.  All weekend, I thought about my plan for level 3.  Part of the day would involve a a vocabulary brainstorm that I’ve done various ways in the past.  I wanted a way in which I could make it engaging for every single person in the room.  So we did Four Corners*!

There are different ways to do this activity, but here’s how I did it.  I told my students to choose (and move to) a corner of the room.  Naturally, the groupings were uneven so I did “nose-goes**” and sent people to different groups to balance things out.  Next, I gave each group a different category on a medium-sized piece of butcher paper and set a timer for 5 minutes.  In their groups, students brainstormed as many words as they could that fit the category.  Students could use phones to look up unknown words.  After 5 minutes, students rotated to a new corner where they had 3 minutes to read the the list and add words not already brainstormed.  After each group visited each corner, everyone returned to their seats and we processed the activity by discussing which categories were easier and which were harder.  We then segued into what they thought the new unit was going to be about.  They seemed intrigued, and they did not hide the fact that they were having fun.

At the end of every class period I heard students saying, “Spanish goes by so quickly.”  I agree.  My days are flying by because we are having so much fun every period of everyday.  I hope that is everyone’s experience right now!

*I learned of the activity Four Corners at the AVID Summer Institute last summer.

**Nose-goes: when someone says, “Nose goes,” the last person to touch his/her nose must do whatever it is that no one is willing to do voluntarily.

Day 2… What did we do?

Yesterday we collaborated about collaboration in one of the collaboration spaces in our school :).

I LOVE the collaboration spaces in our school; two are empty, two are furnished with tables and chairs.  The empty ones are great for activities like Philosophical Chairs and the furnished ones are great for group collaboration–I especially love to move there for learning stations because it means I don’t have to rearrange my classroom.  My friend and colleague, Rebecca Gould, did a similar activity last year, though I improvised when I could not exactly recall how she did it.

One of the furnished collaboration spaces

One of the furnished collaboration spaces

Yesterday, I arranged the tables to have 4 or 5 chairs, and allowed the class to choose the first grouping.  I gave some guidelines based on class size.  For example, my class of 32 had to sit 4-5 to a group.  No more than 5, no less than 4.  With 7 tables, it worked perfectly.  I gave each group a piece of butcher paper and had them divide it into 4 quadrants.  With the first grouping, they had to brainstorm what collaboration does not look like in the top left quadrant.  I encouraged them to think about their worst group work experiences.  After about 5 minutes, I had each group share out, and I took notes on my own butcher paper.  Here is what students had to say:

  • when one person does all the work
  • when one person is bossy and uncompromising
  • when some of the group is on their phones
  • when members are talking to people in other groups
  • when people blame one person for the bad grade
  • when people don’t talk
  • when people are off-task
  • when people are distracted
  • when 1 person has to supply all the materials

Then, I had 2 people from each group stand.  These students had to find a new group but could not join the same group as the other person leaving the original group.  In this new grouping, I had the students brainstorm what collaboration does look like.  In my first period, I actually did this first and discovered it was a lot easier for students to come up with bad examples than good example, so in 2nd-7th, I switched the order.  Once again, we shared out as a whole group and here is what they said:

  • working together
  • having fun
  • staying on task
  • respecting other people and ideas
  • contributing
  • meeting the goal for the group
  • listening to the other people

Next, I had the two students who had not yet moved find a new group with the guideline that they could not be in a group with anyone they had already worked with today.  In this grouping, the students came up with a concise definition of collaboration.  Here are just some of the awesome definitions they came up with:

Some definitions my students wrote

Some definitions my students wrote

Finally, I allowed them to stay in this grouping (we were running out of time) and I asked them to think about what should be some non-negotiables for collaborating in our Spanish classroom.  I was mostly looking for, “speak in Spanish” but I also had a couple of other ideas:

  • don’t make fun of anyone’s bad pronunciation
  • help others with vocabulary they don’t know
My example from a class period

My example from a class period

Now, let’s be honest.  I could have gone over expectations for collaboration in about 5 minutes, but would they really have thought my rambling was that important?  No!  Would it have been meaningful at all?  To many, no!  After we did the activity, I praised them.  I said, “I feel really good about collaboration in this class.  From hearing your discussions and things you shared today, I know we all have the same goals for successful collaboration, and that makes me extremely excited for the things we will do this year.”  In some classes, we even gave ourselves a round of applause. 🙂

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