Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Group Work Fail

Eighth grade math. They had an interesting group assignment:

Each group got a copy of that instruction sheet. Enough info, right? (I mean, even at this size it looks pretty detailed. If you want to see it better, just click on the image and it should get bigger.)

I'm sure you know where this is going...

First period. I briefly skimmed the instructions, pausing on the line, "Facilitator, read and share this with your group before beginning." So, that meant that as a group they'd read the instructions together, right? I was to leave them to go over those directions on their own? That's what I took it to mean.

That's not what happened.

Okay, then, I need to go over the page with them. No problem. Starting with second period and continuing with all the other classes, we read it together.

Now, you'd think that taking five minutes to go over the instructions in detail should be enough. Apparently not.

Not one period followed the directions. They did the math, mostly. But they didn't complete the page the way they were supposed to.

(Group work is a large component of Common Core. And they were preparing for a quiz. The point of the group stuff was to have those students who understood the concepts--triangle stuff--help those that didn't.)

I had them read their individual roles. I explained how the tasks were to be completed again after reading through it with them on the page. As I walked the room, I repeated to the groups how they were supposed to proceed.

Not a bit of it made an impression.

The students who knew what they were doing completed the page. The students who were struggling played around. They would not confer. They did not time anything. They did not work as a group.

I don't know if they grasped what they were supposed to do. It was as if the instructions were too much for them. That, or they turned off their brains the minute they saw a substitute teacher.

Sigh. Well, I tried. I'm not sure if they did.


  1. OMG, I've seen Japanese stereo instructions which were less complicated. Of course, Math was, by far, my least favorite subject, but still...
    Incidentally (not that you asked) History was my favorite.

  2. Honestly, I don't blame them. All those rules to follow seems kinds of tedious, and they already have to deal with math problems. When I was in school, we were just allowed to work and ask each other or the teacher if we had problems.

    Ugh, I sound like such an old lady, complaining about how things change.

  3. My brain closes down when I see instructions more than a paragraph long. I like to think I was better when I was a kid, even with subs. But, maybe I wasn't.

  4. I think you went behind trying. Was this on a Friday? Perhaps they were a bit burnt out?


  5. Well, I'm an adult (believe it or not) and i read these instructions and I am still scratching my head like Stan Laurel. When the instructions become too long, my head spins so...yeah..I would get a D for effort

    1. Which is why I read the instructions with them. At a certain point, I can see how it would be hard to follow. (If I had been more alert 1st period, I probably would have read it with them as well.) But after I went over what they had to do with them?

  6. I'm with Birgit. ~shakes head~ And the mention of Stan Laurel cracked me up. How many of these kids would have a clue to his identity? Be well!

    1. You'd be surprised what they know. But yeah, Stan Laurel they would not know.

  7. The instructions were clear. But I get why the better students didn't want to have to deal with the others. The fact they knuckled down and did the work while the others not so much says it all.


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