Over the summer I played along with Dan Meyer’s makeover series by spicing up a textbook problem using the distributive property. Today the kids completed the open ended Variety Show task and it was a hit in more ways than one. They collaborated, persevered, and constructed arguments. All while having fun.

Before we jumped into the task I handed out a Mathematical Collaboration Rubric which I modified a bit, courtesy of Cheesemonkey Wonders.

Then the fun began by showing one of the blind audition clips from the Voice.

“Why are we watching this Mrs. Dooms?”

“You’ll see, Steven.”

Each group of three then received one copy of the task. I projected it on the screen. We read it aloud. Then they went to work on the giant white boards.

Two groups had trouble getting started or didn’t take into account the parameters of the show: twenty acts, about 2 hours in length, the need to consider set up and take down.

About 15 minutes into the task, the mathematical thinking became more clearly: three minute acts, two minutes for combined set up and take down, one minute per introduction. Yet the task asked for three scenarios. They began to make adjustments.

“Do you think the host needs one minute to introduce each act? How could you estimate how long it takes?” I asked.

“I could pretend I’m the host!” said one student.

“Yeah. Introduce my act as the kid who jumps through hoops of fire!” said another.

Expo markers were suddenly transformed into microphones. One student grabbed three and bundled them together, “I’m Barack Obama talking on TV!”

Two boys went to the front of the room and we timed an introduction.

“Our next act is Zach. Zach, tell me what you’re going to do?”

“You’re gonna watch me draw a horse!”

“Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Zach, the artist, and his horse!”

They timed their intros and discovered one minute was too much time. “Where would you put that extra time?” Nearly every group chose to give the extra time to the acts. One student thought the time could be used to interact with the audience. “That’s a possibility,” I said.

After all groups shared out the students reflected on one section of the rubric.

I wish I could tell you EVERYONE collaborated beautifully. Unfortunately one group was a disaster. Instead of collaborating, they silently and begrudgingly took turns creating each scenario. Every time I checked on them, encouraged them to work together, it was utter silence.

1. October 19, 2013 9:16 pm

Ohhhh. I LOVE this idea (and the video link too). Your collaboration rubric is awesome. How do you use it? Students complete it? You complete it? Each day? Just for a task? Regardless, I love it.

Thanks for checking out my post about my Cooperative Groups presentation. I just posted a PDF document with my responses to the questions that were posed on their exit slip. One of them was:Do all your groups work well with behavior issues in class? I think this is similar to your situation.

My response: No. There are always problem groups or someone is having a bad day. I spread out the students with behavior issues in the groups I have easy access to and fill in with other students. I stay closer to those groups and sometimes they end up working individually instead of as a group or one student gets removed. It’s not the best situation, but behavior issues will always crop up in middle school. I will also pull those students aside and ask if they would prefer to work alone since they weren’t contributing to their group. They usually say no and I will let them return with a warning if I don’t see participation, they will work alone. One year I used ClassDojo (website & app) to track behavior, but once my classes got too big, it was too hard to use. I don’t use participation points this year, but did one year when I had a rough group of students. Just because they sit in groups and work in groups often, doesn’t mean I ignore behaviors or that they don’t exist. I try and handle them on an individual basis, but that doesn’t make it easy.

If I use the rubric that you posted above, they would have received 1′s and 2′s for each of the focus areas. Maybe I would poll each student in that group and see what the issue was, something just that day or something that won’t go away. Maybe I would switch groups earlier than planned. I don’t know really.

Not sure if that helped, but I LOVED your post and will save this for when I teach that topic again! Thanks!

• October 20, 2013 1:33 pm

Hi Jessica!

I used the rubric on a previous task where they self-assessed, but not for a grade. This time I counted it “for a grade” and, again, the students self assessed plus my input will determine their score. I’m going through them now. I asked the students to write a reflection on ONE part of the rubric and most of the students and I are on the same page. How they rated themselves on each of the categories is also pretty accurate. A few overrated themselves and I will need to talk with them on a shared understanding of the expectations. Collaboration is 5 percent of the grade so if they do poorly it’s not a drastic game changer, but it’s just enough to call attention to the importance of it.

Thanks for taking the time to write and sharing how you handle groups that are not functioning well. I was anticipating one student who would not collaborate, but I wasn’t expecting all three. One of them shared in their reflection why (s)he wasn’t able to contribute. I won’t go into details but it was a legitimate reason.

I so appreciate your posting your presentation. It’s not quite the same thing as being there, but the information is very useful! Thanks!

2. October 19, 2013 10:28 pm

Sounds like a fun lesson – way more engaging and interesting than the original textbook question. Thanks for sharing. I am working with my grade 8 students on creating rubrics for problem solving, collaborating, communicating and making connections in math so this is really helpful right now.

• October 20, 2013 12:59 pm

I think the collaboration went well for the most part because the task was something they could relate to. I encouraged them to have fun with it too and that helped. I also saw my students in a different, more creative light because I let them show another side of themselves. Thanks for stopping by.