After a few weeks of group work with the group norms listed on the wall I noticed students still weren't working well together. I tried grouping students by ability levels but had trouble with my lower students working without a teacher sitting with the group. I tried mixing up the ability levels but then the high students were too dominant and did not give the lower students time to think. And of course we all have the students who will let anyone and everyone do the work for them while they either socialize or take a nap. OK- so I might exaggerate on the nap scenario but the socializing is too much of a reality in 7th grade.
I needed to get my students to care more about their own learning. I wanted them to realize their participation in their group impacts their learning every day. If I could get groups to REALLY work together everyone would become a much stronger math student. To encourage the practice of group norms I decided to give marbles to groups when I saw them demonstrating a norm. The marbles are then recorded in my gradebook as a participation grade. I made it part of their grade so that students start to realize they are not successful unless the GROUP is successful. Therefore, in order for groups to earn marbles EVERYONE must be practicing the group norm.
Instead of giving a group a marble for "working well" together (which is too vague for most middle school students) I give a marble to a groups when I see students being patient (waiting for his/her group member to finish writing before moving on to the next problem). To ensure students knew what I would be looking for we focused on one norm each day for about a week.
I used "Looks like/Sounds like" flipcharts to help pinpoint specific behaviors.
* Please ignore my odd choice of colors as backgrounds*
In groups then as a class we listed what I would hear or see that would gain a group a marble. After the list was made I would keep the list up while the groups worked together on the math activity of the day. I gave marbles for ONLY the group norm for that day (it was hard at times to give five).
Now that we have practiced all of the group norms individually, I now give marbles for all group norms demonstrated. I often try to tell students why they are getting the marble so they will repeat the behavior or action. I also tell students when I want to give them a marble but "can't" when I see a certain group norm not being followed.
In the beginning it was really hard to get around to give marbles because groups still needed so much attention. I have noticed over the past couple of weeks I am able to walk around more and assess each group more often. This is a good indication that the marbles are working! I am looking forward to see continued progress with group work after a couple of months of marbles.