Success! (with engagement & collaboration)

Success! (with engagement & collaboration)

I am on top of the world today after my practicum experience yesterday. I had two big moments of success:

  1. I initiated group work for the first time in class and it went really well
  2. The introduction to the new unit on friendship and mental health (SEL) was received with a lot of interest

Success with my first time doing group work

My inquiry is about community building, social cohesion and group work, which I’m both excited and nervous about. As I mentioned previously, my SA does not do a lot of group work, so this is moving into unknown territory for both the students and I.

In bringing the event story unit to a close, I thought it would be a good time to review some writing conventions that I noticed the students having trouble with. Namely, comma splices. I projected a few sentences containing comma splices up onto the whiteboard, and after collaboratively editing the sentences as a class, I formed groups with the intention of having each group collaboratively edit a sentence.

There were loud protests and much haranguing. Students tried to negotiate group placement, but I held firm. After a few minutes, students slowly and reluctantly got into their groups. What happened next surprised me. They worked! They worked hard, and their effort together was much stronger than alone. It was magnificent!

I think by the end, the students had gained an appreciation for the group work. I was very, very pleased with how it went.

Success with student engagement

The second success story was the level of engagement students showed for the mental health and friendship unit I’ve been planning the last few weeks. I was very nervous about how students would receive this unit, but also encouraged by how excited Pat was for the unit. I know they struggle with these subjects at this age, and in particular, with Covid, students’ mental health has taken a hit.

Yesterday I did the formal introduction to the unit by showing the first few minutes of the movie Up, and then asking students to identify how the characters showed strong friendship-building skills in the clip.

One student in particular, who has really become my ally, had excellent contributions to the whole-class discussion, but as usual, there were a lot of very quiet students who did not want to participate. I can understand why—this is a very touchy topic for students at this age.

However, at the end of the little intro discussion, I showed students an online survey I created that I wanted them to complete over the weekend. The survey asked them which topics they’re most interested in learning about.

Within minutes the students were asking me, “Where is the link to the form? I can’t find the form!” I told them I would post the link on Teams shortly, and they continually asked me when. Within an hour (before school had even ended) nineteen students had already completed the form. As of this evening, less than 24 hours later, twenty-two students had completed it. That is all but one of the students in the class that day, which is such an astonishing turn-out.

I didn’t have to prompt them or cajole them—they were internally motivated. This goes to show that the unit topic is hitting a chord with students and I’m excited for what the next weeks bring!