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While walking down the hallway of any school one is likely to hear the sounds of students working in small groups. However, students sitting in groups to complete an assignment does not necessarily mean that they are truly collaborating.   For the learning environment to be a place in which students work interdependently to design solutions to complex challenges and construct understanding of important concepts, a collaborative classroom culture has to be built, cultivated and sustained through the collective efforts of both the teacher and the students.

The Teacher Sets the Tone by ensuring that:

The Environment is secure and respectful. Routine procedures and high expectations for student behavior have been established. Students have been enlisted as partners in creating a safe learning environment in which all individuals feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas contributing to their own success and that of their team.

Norms that guide collaborative dialogue are agreed upon, helping students to monitor when and how to talk, listen, and respond.

Learning Tasks are cognitively complex, demanding various  perspectives and a team approach.

Team roles are clearly defined, maximize student strengths and provide students with experience serving in various roles.

Grouping strategies and room arrangement are purposeful and flexible.

Tools that support productive thought are readily accessible. For example:
  • Technology tools for conducting research and collaborating on documents and projects
  • Chart paper and markers for generating ideas, drawing diagrams and sketches to explain thinking

Student Commitment is Essential
With tone and expectations set, engage students in making commitments to consistently hold themselves accountable for being productive class members.   Commitments may be crafted by individuals in conference with the teacher, in small groups, or as a whole class.

Trusting relationships among teacher and students begin to develop when commitments are made and honored.  Combine this with strategic planning and persistence to lay the foundation for a truly collaborative classroom culture.  This culture fosters individual accountability and positive interdependence leading to deeper, more satisfying learning experiences and accelerated student achievement.

Samantha Tate and Shasta Looper along with S2TEM Centers SC Education Specialists, Terrie Dew and Dorothy Earle are serving as literacy coaches at Lakeview, Berea, and Tanglewood Middle Schools partnering with teachers  to boost student literacy and achievement in Math and ELA . The coaches, whose initial foci are building relationships and classroom culture, are working through Public Education Partners in tandem with Greenville County Schools in the implementation of the instructional component of the grant, On Track Greenville. The instructional component of the grant is based on the S2TEM Centers SC research project, "Inquiring Minds: Reading to Learn and Innovate in Mathematics and Science" (IQMS).

For More Information:
Disciplinary Literacy Strategies:  IQMS Virtual Library
Norms of Collaboration: Thinking Collaborative
Costa, Arthur L. School as a Home for the Mind. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2008. Print
Frey, Nancy, Douglas Fisher, and Sandi Everlove. Productive Group Work. Alexandria: ASCD, 2009. Print.
Marzano, Robert, Debra J. Pickering, Tammy Heflebower. The Highly Engaged Classroom. Bloomington: Marzano Research Laboratory, 2011. Print.
Whitten, E., Kelli J. Esteves, and Alice Woodrow. RTI Success. 2009.

Upcoming Events

Read to Succeed: Content Area Reading and Writing for Middle School and Secondary Teachers (iDEAL) - SC Regional PD Sessions
Various Dates and Locations around South Carolina

October 28, 2015
Code Studio Workshop
Orangeburg‐Calhoun Technical College

October 29, 2015
Code Studio Workshop
SCETV, Columbia

November 4 - 6, 2015
SC2 Conference
Columbia, SC

November 12 -13, 2015
2015 SCCTM Fall Conference
Greenville, SC

November 2015 – March 2016
Building Numeracy K-8 Statewide Training
Columbia, SC

January 13 - March 29, 2016
Understanding Measurement in the Elementary Classroom:  Teaching from a Student Centered Perspective
Online Course
January 13 - March 29, 2016
Content and Applications for Middle Level Mathematics with a Student Centered Perspective
Online Course
January 13 - March 29, 2016
Understanding Geometry: Teaching from a Student Centered Perspective
Online Course

March 23, 2016
Lowcountry Regional STEM Symposium
Trident Technical College, N. Charleston

What S2TEM Centers SC clients say about their Professional Learning Experience...

"(As always) The S2TEM Centers once again increased my professional knowledge-base in the area of visioning for organizational continued improvement."

Lisa Allison, Curriculum Coordinator
Batesburg-Leesville High, Lexington 3
School Leadership- LEAD 3
“It provided me with new strategies to use for my students to be successful. I will use the strategies to engage my students and to make my lessons full and meaningful. I really enjoyed the presentation. The instructors were fun and made the class interesting and motivating for me to assist my students.”

Cheryl Boyd, Teacher
Dover Elementary, Orangeburg 5
Disciplinary Literacy, Learning Strategies Workshop

“It gave me AWESOME strategies to implement and to improve/challenge my students thinking.  I have used some of the strategies in PD but many of these will be useful for my students this year.”
Holly Ritter, Teacher
Dover Elementary, Orangeburg 5
Disciplinary Literacy -Learning Strategies Workshop

Copyright © 2015 South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics & Science at Clemson University, All rights reserved.

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