I am currently running a summer school for 35 Gifted and Talented students – it has been a great experience based around a murder mystery set in a temporary WWII hospital. At the beginning of the process I wanted to have an original way to group students and get them thinking about the who they should work with and why.
After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of friendship groups with them, we looked at a set of cards (click here to download the Ten Faces Card Sort) based on the fantastic research and writing of Tom Kelley. He has written a book called ‘The Ten Faces of Innovation’ and it outlines the 10 personas that he believes make for creative projects and solutions. I made a card in pupil speak for each of the personas and gave it to individual students on cards. They then had to create a diamond 9 diagram and discarded one card at seemed irrelevant to them. The diagrams they created then formed the basis of their negotiations for creating groups. Each team had to have five members and each having a strength in a different area.
The process worked really well and ensured that each group had, on paper, the abilities needed to be creative. There were a lot of students whose social and inter-personal skills were high, and just a few with ability to create exciting designs and experiences. This made them go for a premium and wanted by all groups. Eventually, students were questioning each other about who had design skills on the third level of their diagrams, and were asking if they recruited two people in this area whether that would be enough.
The real point, i think, of activities like this is to challenge students to work with different people and in a variety of ways. There is a great deal of academic evidence to suggest that ability to adapt to surroundings and circumstances is linked to happiness, acceptance and emotional progress in students. This activity begins to instil that approach with the students. I have always found that being open and allowing students opportunities to work both with friends and then others creates a good classroom ethos. With some classes I use a laminated football pitch poster and we tally the times that we work with friends and without and try to keep it even.
The crucial part of all this work is in the debrief or plenary to the activity. Here, the learning needs to be unpacked, but this must include questions on how effectively the group worked and how they went about tackling the problem or issue. In this way the messages about group work are reinforced by the experience and the reflection.
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