Organic Collaboration

Originally Posted May 2014

My absolute favorite thing about choice is the organic collaboration that occurs. Today the best thing happened.

Friday is the wrap up of this round of the Studio Choice Challenge (already extended by 2 weeks) and student need to have finished enough projects to earn 150 points. While I think that overall my points system need some recalibration, I told the classes that if less than 80% have a passing grade (over 100 points) then they will have shown me that they aren’t ready to be self-directed learners and we will need to go back to some more teacher-directed assignments. With a quick show of hands it was determined that only 50% or less in each class have over 100 points.

This announcement lit a fire under some butts. The kids that have been thriving, earning lots of points and enjoying the great freedom to do their own thing, decided they needed to help/push some of the other kids. Suddenly I had one student make a loudly whispered announcement, “anyone that wanted to earn 50 points really quick, come over to printmaking.”

Sidebar: I added printmaking center this week. My 5 challenges in printmaking are pretty fast and easy. Mono-prints, Styrofoam relief, rubber stamping and collograph working towards soft-cut relief print. As kids started doing the print challenges this week I realized I needed to recalibrate the points, but decided to let it go for now and fix it next time.

Printmaking Peer Mentoring

So clearly this kid had discovered my error… And is gaming my system a little. But I didn’t care! In fact I was excited by the development. Here was one kid getting 5 others excited about trying something new and then teaching them how to do it. And motivated enough to keep choices that he was willing to push, motivate and help others.

Another collaboration this week was a drawing. Three boys were using my sketchbook challenge lists (some great drawing prompts that I found on Pinterest and printed for the drawing center) to draw things and they each drew an animal with a super power in their sketch books. I walked by and they asked for my feedback. I said, “I want to know which one of them would win if they had a super fight. That would be a cool drawing. I’ll give you 15 points each if you draw that Epic Battle.” So began the epic battle drawing.

Drawing Collaboration

They still needed a lot of redirection, since they thought collaboration meant one person drawing and the other two talking and watching. I gave them several suggestions on good collaboration. Taking turns, while the others worked on something else, but were near-by for consultation. OR sitting close enough to be drawing on different parts of the paper at the same time. It took them a while to “get” the collaboration thing, but they got it eventually and the results were great. They also renegotiated the points with me up to 20 points each, plus the boost points of 5 points each for collaborating.

The Battle of the Creatures

Honestly the points are only because I have to figure out how to put something in the grade book for this unit. So if kids are learning, growing, experimenting and creating, I am ok with fudging the points a bit.

I have some more great collaboration stories, but I will save those for another post.


What is your favorite part about using choice in your classroom?

How do you keep them motivated and have something to put in the grade book?