Working with a group gives students an opportunity to develop a variety of skills that contribute to learning and to later success in college and the work place. They learn to delegate roles and responsibilities, share diverse perspectives, and pool knowledge and skills.
Earlier in the school year, the students chose what to read among a variety of novels. Now, during our current unit of study – mythology – I like to give them an even broader choice. This time they have a say in who to work with and as well as what to read. A few days before the project is scheduled to begin I ask them to fill out this form, which asks for a list of four others “with whom you will work productively and with whom you will not be distracted.” I promise that they will be with at least one person on the list. My goal is to put together mixed ability groups but there is more than just that to consider: behavior and personality are also important factors. I have learned that promising more than one person from the list is dangerous!
Today we spend we time reviewing each section of the Mythology Reading Plan, including the rubric. In addition, I let them know that at the end of the unit each student will fill out a form evaluating their own participation with the group and the participation of their peers.
In the days to come, a reminder of the fact that group members will report on the work habits and on the quality work produced by their peers goes a long way to keeping everyone on task! Not only does it support students to think about how effectively the group is working, it also encourages students to do some self reflection to prepare for how peers might be evaluating their contributions and work.
Of course, the moment everyone is waiting for is the revealing of the groups. Once this is done they change seats in order to work together on the first group task.
I pass out copies of Myths and Legends From Ancient Greece and Around the World (Prentice Hall, 2000) and the students spend time reviewing the eight myth choices and then selecting four. Of course, the group must all agree on the selections and this takes some time. Predictably, some are concerned about length and count up the pages, but not everyone is caught in that. I am encouraged to hear some students opting to avoid myths they are familiar with instead choosing to read new ones. And some groups are learning the value of compromise. One young lady states, “The boys want to read this one and the girls that one, so we added both to our list!”
Once the final decisions are made each student fills out one of these forms for reference plus each group submits one copy to me. Each group also chooses a name that is linked to Greek mythology, such as the Mighty Athenas, the Spartans, and Sons of Atlantis.
The process of choosing myths has gone so smoothly that we end up with enough time to read “Zeus & the Creation of Mankind” together. While doing so, we practice identifying the common characteristics of myths, which include that they often:
A marked up version of the story appears here and some thoughts on the process is here: