Hello folks, hope everyone has enjoyed a nice long holiday, time for the final term - I hope I can distract you from job-hunting long enough to hear about my experiences of coop learning.
When I started my Probation, something which was quite new to me was coop learning. I hadn't experienced much of it during my teacher training, and suddenly found myself in a school where it was in constant use across every department. How could I keep up?
Luckily, the school arranged some pretty comprehensive training, including a two-day course for all new staff (Probationer or otherwise) which showcased a lot of different techniques. Others I have picked up at in-service training, CPD or conferences. And of course, there's the good old "make it up" methodology which can be very useful for creating coop learning activities specific to your subject!
Here are a few activities which I've tried which have been successful (and a few which haven't)
One of the staples of coop learning! Pretty easy to adapt to any subject, just give them a question, let them come up with ideas, share these with a partner and then explain to the class or another pair. I've found this good with most classes, but sometimes with the more difficult ones, they'll talk about anything BUT the question. I think this is really one which works best when you can depend on the pupils to actually worry about being asked to explain their ideas to the class - if they're happy to say in front of the class that they don't have any answers / suggestions whatsoever, then this may not be too successful.
Basically the idea is to get them in groups making posters to display what they've learned. Then team them up so each team has one person from every poster group. Each team starts at a certain poster and the person who worked on that poster has to explain it to the rest of the team. After one minute, each team moves to a different poster and the process repeats. Thus everyone in the class has to explain a poster at some point. This works really well when you've got a topic with lots of different parts to it, so that different groups will have different ideas. It can be time-consuming to make the posters but I think it's worth it. Just avoid using with really short topics otherwise they all put exactly the same things on the posters!
You split up a topic, and one person from each table has to become an expert in a certain part of the topic, then teach it to the rest of their table. They will team up with other 'experts' in the same area to learn their little bit and then return to their table to do the teaching. This has been a fairly successful activity for me. It isn't really suitable for teaching a topic for the first time (would you want your child being taught something new by another child?) but its great for revising a topic that hasn't been covered in a while. I have found this works great when you've got another adult in the room (eg a classroom assistant or, if you're lucky, a coop teacher) as you can dedicate even more time to each group of experts. A few pitfalls I've encountered are ending up with the least able children trying to teach the hardest part of the topic - you may need to do some crafty manipulation to make sure the ones who struggle most get an easier part to teach. Also watch out that you don't have too many expert groups or you'll never be able to help them all prepare.
Anyway, I hope this inspires you go go out and get the kids working together!