Encouraging student collaboration – Naomi Epstein

Naomi EpsteinStudent Collaboration – Smoothing the Way for the Struggling Learner

Remember the child in sports lessons, who was always left for last when choosing teams? The one nobody wanted on their team because that child was clumsy and slow? We can all imagine what such a child feels.

Thankfully, sports lessons are only an hour or two a week. But the students who are slow readers and struggling learners have a much harder time of it. They are the ones nobody wants to pair with or be with during group work. Their learning difficulties stay with them all week! A student who feels rejected will not be able to focus on the task at hand and may be a source of disturbance to the other students.

Using a few simple strategies, the teacher can help such students become a sought-after member of any group activity.

1) Give that student a “hint-sheet” or “help-sheet” for the activity given to the group. When the members of the group have a question or need reassurance that they are doing the right thing, they must consult with the student. The help sheet can include a glossary, points that must be included in the task or hints as to where to look for the answer.

2) When playing a game in groups that student plays the role of the teacher. In a board game in which the students progress after answering questions, the struggling learner poses the questions and has the answers written on the back of the question-cards. Reading the answers to the questions serves as an important review for the student while bolstering his/her self confidence.

3) The student who needs to get up every 10 minutes can be named the “roving reporter”, the one who reports to the teacher on the progress of the members of the group or the one who goes up to the board to mark off the tasks the group has already completed.

A bit of planning in advance can go a long way to helping smooth the way for student collaboration!

About Naomi Epstein

For the past twenty-five years I have specialized in teaching English as a foreign language to deaf and hard of hearing pupils in Israel. I began my career as an elementary school teacher but have taught high-school for the last 21 years. I have a B.A. in Deaf Education, a B.E.D. in EFL and an M.A. in Curriculum Development. I'm the author of two textbooks for these pupils. I am both a teacher and a teachers' counselor. As a firm believer in the quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world" (Gandhi) I have found that sharing with others, networking and reading have helped me keep my enthusiasm for teaching burning bright. I've recently discovered the joys of audiobooks - I now read books AND listen to them while doing housework! Naomi's blog: Visualizing Ideas