Today we met again. We had to talk about challenges that group work presents and advantages of group work. It was a long afternoon. We now have to create a lesson plan based on group work and have a colleague observe that lesson.
I went to Ben's blog to see what had been written about group work. There was one post. Ben opens that post by saying "We basically have no reason to group kids, but a lot of observers come in to our classrooms looking for exactly that so that they can check that box on their evaluation sheet."
He then shared an idea by Judy Dubois that incorporates group work: …I heard about the Dictogloss at the TESOL France conference. The teacher reads a short dictation At Normal Speed and students write down what they remember, then in groups put their notes together and try to come up with the original text. At upper levels, 3 + 4, this might be an interesting exercise. With students willing to stay in the target language, it would involve listening, writing, speaking and reading….
I then started wondering if there might be a place for group work when reading. Might there be a way to have students read a novel in groups in a productive and effective manner? I know that voices like Terry Waltz say that it is useless to have beginning learners listen to beginning learners read/speak in the target language. I wonder if that changes as time goes on and students begin to read quite well?
I am at a loss. The overarching issue, or course, is what we do when we are "forced" to do things at the local, state and federal level that seem to go against what we know to be best practices in language acquisition. So many teachers are facing this. Deb Soifer comes immediately to mind. She has suffered her fair share trying to do right by kids while pacifying the powers that be. Her sharing in the fall shows how much she has wrestled with this.
I would welcome your thoughts about how I can do what I am told and still do right by my students. I think I will try Judy's idea. I continue to wonder about a role for groups in the reading of the novels.