Monday, February 28, 2011

Create Small Groups in Seconds and So Much More

This is one of those "oldie but a goodie" ideas that I've been using since I began teaching seven years ago.

There is one other tool in my classroom that gets almost as much use as my document camera and projector--a cup of craft sticks. I have a cup of jumbo craft sticks (tongue depressors) with the names of my students written on them. I want to share with you a handful of...crafty uses for these sticks.

I use the sticks a lot when I need to make partnerships or small groups for a quick activity. I pull any number of sticks (depending on the size of the group I desire) to make grouping students happen in seconds. I also like the randomness of this method, because it ensures that my students get a chance to work with each person in the class at some point over the year.

Keeping my students awake and on their toes is another added benefit of the sticks. Instead of calling on the student with his/her hand raised I pose the question, allow for some thinking time, and then pull a stick. You should see them sit up a little straighter when I announce that I'm going to pull a stick to get an answer.

Here's another use for the sticks...I use them as a bias-free way of choosing which student gets to help out with those little tasks that mean a lot to them. Here's an example of what mean that happened just a few weeks ago: our music teacher needed a couple of students to help him set up for the recorder concert. Of course everyone of them wanted to help, but I used a few sticks to settle the debate quickly and fairly.

One more. We fill out a planner/calendar at the end of each day. I pull a stick and use that student's planner under my document camera as my model. I write the day's events as students copy it down.

There are a lot more creative uses out there, and I'd love to read what you do, or plan on doing with your own set of sticks. Stop by your local art supply or craft store and pick up a box of jumbo craft sticks, and give it a try tomorrow!

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