I recently had an epiphany. It came from Ilana Seidal Horn.
I was reading her book, Strength in Numbers, and she was addressing status in the classroom. Her definition is status is the perception of students’ academic ability and social desirability. Here’s an excerpt that blew my mind.
Unless we address underlying conceptions of smartness, we risk reverting to the commonly help belief that group work benefits struggling students because smart students help them. As long as we have a simplistic view of some students as smart and others as struggling, we will have status problems in our classroom. Students quickly pick up on assessments of their ability. For example, when teachers arrange collaborative groups to evenly distribute strong, weak, and average students, children will figure out that scheme and rapidly learn which slot they fill….If mathematics is rich enough, the strengths of the different students come into play, rendering the common mixed-ability grouping strategy useless. (p.29)
Truth. Talk about unraveling so many years of my teaching career in one paragraph.
A day later I noticed this tweet from Frank Noschese:
We use popsicle sticks with student names on them and switch groups every Wednesday. https://t.co/OSBG9VVM6B
— Frank Noschese (@fnoschese) February 26, 2017
Bam. Just like that I was finished with strategic grouping.
Each seat in the room is assigned a number and every Monday students select a numbered popsicle stick upon entering the room. I’m coining them destiny sticks.
This week, after the first go around with the new approach, I immediately got lots of “this is a great idea” and “I love this!” from the students. Full steam ahead.