Field notes: 2/22/13
Today at my school placement in a center city private school second grade classroom, the three second grade classrooms were coming together to celebrate the one hundredth day of school. The teachers collaborated on an activity for the students to group up, supervised by a teacher, and tape off specified "100" measurements on the floor around the school.
After the teachers discussed which students will work together well, they put students into groups of three to four, and assigned a teacher to each group. I went along with Teacher P (my mentor teacher)'s group.
The activity didn't have much structure other than the directions of the teachers helping the students measure out 100 centimeters, 100 inches, 100 feet, and 100 meters along the carpeted floor of the school hallways. When we began the activity, arguments immediately ensued about who would have which job, who got to hold the meter stick, who got to put the tape on the ground to mark the measurement this time...it was a little chaotic, especially when we started measuring 100 meters. At this point, Teacher P and I decided to divide the group into two groups--two students to put the meter stick along the floor and mark each one with a small piece of tape, two to take the large roll of tape and follow the other groups' measurements--to help everyone stay on task.
I think the activity would have gone better if it were designed less as a "busy" work activity and something having more concrete goals: how to work with a group (compromise; dividing up work; sharing) being a strong part of it. I would have liked to see the teacher take a stronger role in encouraging the students to reach compromise among each other--whether that be giving everyone a specified task to keep busy, or rotating tasks on a regular schedule...
Reflecting on the activity over lunch, the teachers seemed a little disappointed in how chaotic the activity was. One teacher mentioned that few students were actually on task, but that the only one she noticed really working well was Brennan, a student on the autism spectrum. I don't know if this comment was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek but casual reference to Brennan's usual lack of focus due to his learning differences, or not...it wasn't malicious, but it does make me think about perspectives of students with learning differences in inclusive classrooms.