Got to Teach!: July 2014

Q and A Match-Up: A Cooperative Learning Strategy (Post 2 of 5)

In my first post of this 5-part series, I talked about using Expert Groups as a cooperative learning strategy in your classroom.  Today I am going to outline the use of what I have termed "Q&A Match-Up."  I first saw this strategy used by one of my student teachers as a review activity before a science unit test; my students and I LOVED it! Since then I have used it countless times with just about any subject and/or topic.

Q and A Match-Up: A Cooperative Learning Strategy

How It Works:

  1. Create a set of questions and answers based on the topic your class is studying.  Each question will be placed on a separate card and each answer will be placed on a separate card.  I made all of my answer cards pink and all of my question cards green; this makes it easier for students to "match-up" during the activity.  If you are covering a vast topic (for instance a chapter in a social studies or science text) then you could easily make enough questions and answers cards so that each student has a unique card.  However, you can also make several copies of just a few questions and answers so that some students have duplicate cards; this works best when your topic is more focused (e.g. a lesson within a chapter).
  2. Randomly distribute the question and answer cards to your students.  Give them a few minutes to read their cards and think about what might be the corresponding answer or question that would match their assigned card.
  3. Then allow the students to "mingle" as they try to "match-up" with their correct question or answer.
  4. Once students start matching up, I have them stand shoulder-to-sholder with their corresponding card/partner along the perimeter of the room.  Unmatched students are still floating around the center looking for their counterpart.
  5. Once all students have been matched up, each student can read his/her question and matching answer to the group.  If the group feels that the match is incorrect, then the students can do a little reshuffling to find a better fit.

Why I Love This:

  1. Versatility: This strategy can be used with almost all content and with varying size classrooms. For some lessons, I would make 17 different question cards and 17 matching answers cards so that each of my 34 students had their very own card.  However, if I taught a lesson that perhaps only had 4-5 worthwhile questions, I just made duplicate cards for the students and the activity was just as successful.  
  2. Engagement: Students love mystery and games and this activity incorporates both elements.  
  3. Discussion Opportunity: When the matched-up students present to the group at the end it creates a perfect opportunity for discussion.  Did the question and answer match? How do you know? Who can elaborate? Why are X and Y a better match? etc.
  4. Built in Review: This strategy is a great way to review for a test or reinforce a lesson that you just taught.  
  5. Longevity: Once you have made a set of these cards, you can use them for years to come, adding and changing certain questions/answers as you see fit.

I hope you find this strategy as engaging and meaningful in your classroom as I do in mine.  If you give it a try, please let me know how it went!

Expert Groups: A Cooperative Learning Strategy {Post 1 of 5}

One of the most important elements of teaching is providing students with plenty of opportunities to actively engage in learning with their peers.  I have decided to start a five-part series of posts that will outline my favorite cooperative learning strategies that I have used in my classroom. I will begin with "Expert Groups," a strategy that can easily be used in grades 3-8+, and one that I find especially useful when teaching a class of diverse learners.

Expert Groups: A Cooperative Learning Strategy

How It Works:

  1. Group your students into 4 equal "Expert Groups" (e.g. Group A, Group B, etc.).  These groups should be strategically organized in heterogenous groups in regards to student ability.  Each of these groups will have cover a unique topic or have a unique task to accomplish.  For example, you could divide a reading selection from a social studies or science textbook into 4 equal parts.  The students in these groups are responsible for becoming "Experts" in their topic of study.
  2. You will also need to think about how you are going to organize the "Numbered Groups" (e.g. Group 1, Group 2, etc.).  Similar to the "Expert Groups," these groups should also be varied heterogeneously.  
  3. After the "Experts" have gathered to learn their assigned topics in-depth, they can then be dispersed into numbered groups, which will contain one "Expert" from each group. During this time, "Experts" will present to the other members of the group.
  • The number of "Expert Groups" and "Numbered Groups" are totally flexible depending on the topics you are studying and the number of students in your class.  I have used the strategy successfully with a class of 36 students (4 Expert Groups and 9 Numbered Groups).

Why I Love This:

  1. Less Overwhelming- The students can focus their learning on one aspect of a topic, which allows for greater understanding of a concept. 
  2. Student Accountability- The students understand that they will be responsible for presenting this information to another group of students.
  3. Responsive to Student Learning- As you observe these groups in action, you will quickly see who is and is not "getting it." If you see students struggling to present the information in their "Numbered Groups," then you can always have the "Expert Groups" reconvene.
How have you used "Expert Groups" in your classroom?  I would love to hear about it!


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