Every once in a while I go back to this Alfie Kohn list of What to Look for in a Classroom and think about how my classes are or aren’t consistent with that set of ideas. One of the ones I reflect on a lot is “Different activities take place simultaneously. Activities frequently completed by pairs or groups of students.” That can’t happen 100% of the time, but I like my default class to be one where that’s okay to happen (or should be happening) most of the time.
I really liked this photo from today’s 9th grade class. Two of the students here had come over from a different group to share and think about a problem that both groups had been tackling for a while. One student in the group was checking his own work before talking with the visitors, but a moment later, he was engaged in that conversation, too. (See the next photo.) The girl with the whiteboard was interacting with what had been left by a biology class (we had switched rooms for the day because of an issue with the sinks) and with me, and she was eagerly grabbing the board to share the breakthrough she had just made on a different problem.
There is still room for this group to grow in how they have the conversations, and especially on how they make sure to listen to all of the voices in the room (sometimes they are too eager to share their own thinking or to convince everyone of what they think is correct), but there are a lot of great things happening already.