Ric Long was my Cooperating Teacher when I student-taught in his 6th grade math/science block class. I will admit that I had no desire to teach in a middle school, but he had every single 6th grader wrapped around his finger. He ran a tight ship, and they loved him. One of the things I really liked in his class (but don’t think it’s quite right in a high school setting) was his grading of group work.
The desks in his room were in groups of four, and kids were assigned to new groups every new unit (about every 6 weeks or so). The kids immediately next to each other were partners, and the tables were the groups for group work. Kids were expected to, when working together, only talk to the appropriate people. (Side note: I student-taught in January, and I actually wanted to go back to see how he set up all of these expectations at the beginning of the year.)
During group work, Ric copied a blank seating chart (except for names) and stuck it to a clipboard. While walking around the room and helping kids, he kept an ear out for the following positive and negative behaviors:
- E = encouragement (kids saying, “good job!” or “hey, that’s a great idea!”)
- PD = polite disagreement (“no, I don’t think so because…” rather than, “WRONG!”)
- SOT = staying on task (sometimes great to point out to ADHD kids)
- SR = good silent reading (lots of quiet kids got this one)
- PTM = polite transfer of materials (i.e., using please and thank you)
- SV = small voices (now that I think about it, I think this was actually a positive value of kids using appropriate decibel levels, but it could be declared in the negative value too.)
- IW = invisible walls (I thought this was genius… if conversations started wandering, Ric helped them draw some invisible walls, force-field style, between parties. Kids could even draw their own invisible walls if neighbors were bothering them.)
This list was posted on the board, so all could see (and aim for it). On the clipboard, Rik made sure to give each kid at least two letter-evaluations (more chances for those having bad days), along with extra verbal praise for kids who have trouble behaving appropriately, had a rough time last time, or need to know that they’re doing well. Good behaviors could also be crossed out (along with verbal acknowledgement/wag-o-the-finger), and kids could choose to re-earn the good letters. When he graded the finished group work papers, he’d give them a grade for the work, as well as points for the behavior chart (5 for one-day work, 10 for a multi-day project). Kids could earn 0’s for poor behavior, but he really tried to work with kids to avoiding it.