Have I mentioned that I do a lot of things in groups? I truly believe that in order to fully understand something you need to be able to explain it to someone else (reminds me of the first time I had to teach Geometry – major lightbulbs!) Getting kids to do that sometimes is hard. My classroom is set up with pods of 4 desks and I try to be off the “center stage” as often as possible to encourage kids working together and talking. Something I’ve always done to encourage that is “ticket time” which is not so exciting the 1st time I do it but extremely competitive in the future.
So what is it? Periodically I have kids partner up and I give them a series of Multiple Choice (MC) questions (since I know the MC is always hardest for the AP test we do it a lot for practice). It’s usually about 7 or 8 questions long with the incentive to earn 1 or 2 tickets. Usually something like at least 5 right earns a ticket and all right earns 2. They choose their partner (we only do a group of 3 if an odd number of students) or they can choose to work by themselves. I show the questions on the projector one at a time to allow them time to talk and decide on their answer. It’s brainpower only – no notes allowed and I don’t give out answers till the end. We move on through each question the same way with time at the end to quickly go back through any they need to see again before I check each partner group awarding tickets and only telling them how many they have right before I go over the correct answers. Groups that get tickets put both names on their tickets and I collect them for our drawings later. Finally I go over the solutions for each problem and answer questions before moving on.
So what are the tickets for? Well each quiz and test day I pick out 2 tickets for the class and those students get to take the quiz/test together. YEP I said they get to work together!! Quiz days I pick them out during the warm up and then during the quiz they move aside together to talk freely. Test days my room is set up in rows with randomly assigned seats and two sets of group tables right by me where students can work together. I draw test day tickets after school the day before and post the list in the morning outside my door. (*Kids who choose to work by themselves for ticket time get to pick their partner when their ticket is picked. If a kid’s partner is absent then a new ticket is drawn.)
What happens because of this?
*Kids communicate a lot more when choosing an answer, discussing why the other answers are wrong and don’t rush making a decision.
*Kids get more particular about who they choose to work with as the year goes on. It’s not just who they are sitting next to at the time or their best friend in the class. Fortunately I’ve never had a kid who couldn’t find a partner because no one wanted to work with them 🙂
*Kids know who to ask besides me when they have questions during class (They start to notice that certain people always seem to get their tickets picked – is it because they are lucky or that they have so many tickets for a reason?)
*Kids that work together during assessments learn a lot along the way and have awesome discussions. (You might think that a “smart kid” and a “not up to par kid” who somehow have a ticket together that is picked might be an advantage for the latter kid but that’s not what I’ve seen come out of that situation.)
*Kids encourage each other to study and practice before an assessment in case their ticket is picked.
*Kids stop by my room first thing on test day (or pop by after school the day before) just to see the list of who got picked to work together. This is followed by a lot of high fives and an occasional victory dance in the halls.
*It makes MC review way more exciting 🙂
BTW tickets just accumulate throughout the year. Sometimes kids pass on their ticket being picked for a quiz hoping to have it picked on a test day instead. This is funny because kids don’t realize they can do that till one group that is prepared asks me if they can be put back in instead. This is also about the time we’ve gotten to probability and I show them the ticket stack for their class and ask them to think about this. Inevitably not every ticket is used by the time the tests and quizzes are over for the year but they can use them towards the final exam so everyone is happy.
BTW I shared this strategy with the other AP teachers in my building and the AP Physics teacher came to talk to me about it then tried it in her class. She was amazed how engaged they were and excited about it each time they had the opportunity. My kids consistently ask me if it’s a ticket day so I know I must be doing something right. That’s something to smile about for sure!