Collaboration is hard. It’s hard for adults. It’s hard for kids. It requires communication–listening, reflecting, responding. It requires listening to the ideas of others and being open to adjusting your own thinking. It requires patience and perseverance.One of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice is “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.” We do this work each day in our math workshop, especially during our debriefs, where most of the teaching happens. During our debriefs, students bring their different strategies to the group and defend them against and compare them to those of their classmates.When collaborating with partners or in a small group, students do this on a smaller, more immediate level. When they collaborate, they learn together, diversify their thinking, and grow their communication skills. But again, it’s hard. So during our measurement unit, we have been intentionally working on collaboration. In partners and in small groups, students are given open-ended tasks like measuring the width of the classroom or different jump lengths, making a map, and comparing the lengths of objects. Together, they create a plan and find a way to take on the task. Inevitably, they run into a problem. The jump is longer than the ruler. The classroom is six yards and a little more, but yikes, the yardstick is too long to measure the last bit. Instead of turning to a teacher, they persevere together, asking, “What do you think?” or suggesting, “Maybe we could try…” We reflect not only on the problem and strategies for solving it, but also our strategies for working together. We ask: What can I do when my partner isn’t engaged? What can I do when my partner and I are stuck? What can I do when my partner won’t listen to my ideas? How can I help my partner without giving her the answer?
It’s hard. But as Anthony explained in a recent debrief, “We worked as a team. And we were more efficient and had more fun.”