Groups are extremely buzzword compliant. You get active engagement, collaboration, and become a facilitator all in one move. Well, provided you are secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes and have enough tasks to fill the time.

I hypothosized about it previously, and now I think I have a good plan. It could all explode in my face and I'll have to retool, but here's how it's going to work.

Week 1 and 2 are Boot Camp. This year I have Pre-Cal and Algebra II, so they're both getting it. Algebra II will be a little modified and approached differently. Several of the topics covered fit in nicely with the first few sections, others should probably wait until later, and the degree of difficulty will need to be adjusted. After Boot Camp, the class will be split into groups. Class sizes indicate that 6 groups of 5 is the way to go for me. Desk arrangement is the fun part of that one. Desks are labeled 1-5, each group is a color. I will change the groups every so often, probably at grading period end.

Big picture class format:

  • Instead of homework, a task will be given to each student when we start new topics
  • The task will cover all items ahead of us with a large problem set, sourced from a textbook to save time 
    • Each group member must complete the task prior to a test, the task serves double duty as the review
    • The task will cover problems that require more than one mind to figure out
    • Those harder task problems will be intended for class discussion
    • How and when the students complete the task is up to them, there will be some time in class for this purpose
    • Tasks are pasted into a notebook, no task is accepted outside of a notebook
    • Each student will keep a notebook where all tasks, warm ups, examples, "now you try", WCYDWT questions live
    • Students will be assessed on the topics of the week frequently

This format will reign most of the time unless I have something special in mind. Calculators and voting devices will be kept in the vicinity of the group rather than in a central location to minimize foot traffic and readiness time.

Grading expectations are as follows:


How I determine that 10% Group portion is still being worked out. Part of it should include assessment from the group members to add a little fear that your teammates will flunk you if you're a punk. Notebooks are collected/inspected prior to reporting periods and must have whatever tasks I feel should have been completed by then. Algebra II will be tested in a Standards Based format, so it is expected that they'll have all their test scores recorded as well. In the future, possibly second semester, I hope to find a way to award groups points as we go along, similar to what they do on Around the Horn (an ESPN show, sportswriters are voted up/down by the host based on what they say and eventually one writer "wins").

College gave me the idea for a single, large, weekly assignment and group member evaluation, and the whole concept from my 6th grade math teacher.

Lastly, randomizing and rotating is a big part of active engagement, and what does any mega nerd with an engineering degree do to address this? Popsicle sticks, right? No! Call an amazing programmer friend of yours and make an app for that (features pending):

AuthorJonathan Claydon