Right now I'm focusing on how to set up my classroom. I have to use the department's quizzes/tests, homework assignments, and syllabus, and teach the state standards of course, but as far as I can tell those are my only limitations.

A few weeks ago I got excited at an idea that finally came together. I plan to use the idea of Preferred Activity Time (PAT) Fred Jones describes in his book "Tools for Teaching", and I'm toying with the idea of dividing up the classroom into two teams for the entire semester. Then every Friday as we play math football, or math volleyball, or math Jeopardy, etc., they will always be playing for the same team. The advantage of making the teams semi-permanent, as far as I can see, are:

1) All students in the same group (desks in groups of 4, or maybe 5) will be on the same team, so I'm going to use competition to give them an extra incentive to help their groupmates.

2) Alternate groups are going to be from opposite teams, so if I choose to do so I can have them exchange hw, etc., and give them an incentive NOT to give the other student free points.

The downside is that its really important the teams be about equal in strength, or one team will always win and that will take the incentive away completely. I'm going to be giving mini-assessments the first week to see where they are, and I'll try to balance it as much as I can. I think that what I’ll end up doing is assigning semi-permanent teams, but warning the kids that I might have to shuffle people around once in a while.

So. Here’s my great idea (its not really great unless you think of it at 1am!) I needed a way to label students that would give them a seat label and a group label, but also a “complimentary group” that they might be asked to switch papers with, etc. I finally resolved this by getting the idea of using shapes for one of the labels. I hate making things more than once so I typed up my ideas, and you can access it by downloading the file Desk_Labels in Word or PDF form on the Sines of Learning Document Page.

Instructions for Desk (and Group Station) Labels

Desks are set up in groups of 4, going in circle around room to form 8 sets. Students above 32 are added to existing groups.

The 8 groups are red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, red, and blue.

The first two groups are circles, the second pair squares, the third pair triangles, and the fourth pair diamonds.

I know it sounds confusing, so that’s why I’m going to print out 2 copies of Desk_Labels.doc page 2:

The first page I’ll color the shapes red, the second page I’ll color blue (leaving the circular space around the number white). These will be taped to either the students’ desks or on their seat backs (where Fred Jones suggests they are least likely to get peeled away) so that at all times students know their team (red or blue), their group (Red Circle, Blue Diamond, etc.) and their seat number (1-5).

Pages 3-6 contain labels for whiteboards or anywhere else you want to place stations so that one student per group can be selected out. I'll print out 2 copies of each, color one of each shape red and the other blue, and hang them to designate group stations:

I plan to cut these out, paste them on black construction paper, and use them to designate 8 spaces along my whiteboards so I can say, for instance “All number 3s to the board!” while the other students work at their seats. These can also be used to identify any other group materials, like group manipulative sets or group TI-Navigator hubs.

It sounds a little complex, but it’s complex for me, not the students – they’ve got everything they need to know taped to their desk, and don’t need any explanation other than the Red vs. Blue teams.

Any comments? Suggestions? I would appreciate any and all feedback.

[ETA: pretty screen shots instead of rambling descriptions]

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