Since introducing Tribes with the class I have had many opportunities to put students into their new longer term learning groups. I have been very pleased to observe how the Tribe Leaders are managing their roles, as well as how the students are practicing working together and supporting one another.
With the Tribes concept the classroom has been transformed into a learning community. For example, I have noticed how students in their Tribes are supporting those who are behind in their work. Often, here in China students will not complete their homework, and as a result Tribes have made it so students are less accountable to me, as the educator and more accountable to their Tribe; their community. This strategy has been working well, and I find students are working to catch up with their Tribe and as a result are both learning from the process of doing their homework and working together as a team. For instance, my class has workbooks, which accompany the main text, and which I often give as a homework task. I have had the Tribes form and review each other’s workbooks and this has been a very good strategy for several reasons. Firstly, it reduces the amount of questions asked by students because they are first going to their Tribes to see if someone can answer a question they did not know how to answer. Secondly, it has started to establish a communal way of studying and learning as a group and less as an individual. Those who often have the answers are benefiting because they are now becoming the educator and having to explain the concept they know, as well, the student who is unclear is learning to ask for support. Through the use of Tribes I have become less of an educator who talks at students and more a facilitator who is encouraging community based learning. My role is to provide the support if no one else in the Tribe can, yet I often find in each Tribe there are students who know the answers and I am encouraging them to reach out to one another.
Every week I assign a writing journal topic. This past week I asked students to reflect on their experience working in Tribes and what they have been learning through the process. Many responded with saying they had become better at working together with their Tribe members. Since Tribes concept is designed to ensure students are in a group with at least one friend or student of their choice, encouraging them to work together has not been a challenge. I have even noticed how the dynamic of the classroom is changing. Although, in my class there are no major divisions between students, I can see how many clusters of friends are merging with other groups. Tribes has introduced students to others in the classroom and I believe, created a more trusting community among peers. I have been encouraged by the outcome so far and look forward to seeing how the Tribes will evolve over the next couple of months.
Lesson Notes: What type of educator do you see yourself as? I asked myself this question while completing the education program and it has helped me to shape both who I am in the classroom and what I want my classroom to be. I did not see myself as the person at the front talking at students for endless minutes, nor did I see myself as always following the book. Yet, I saw myself playing many roles. The role of a facilitator, there to encourage, support and foster a desire to learn. As well, I say myself as an educator willing to take risks and try new things, which may appear outside the box. Something to think about; what type of Tribe member would you be? Is it similar to the educator you want to be?
I have been reading the book “Reaching All by Creating Tribes Learning Communities” written by Jeanne Gibbs. After reading the book’s main points and skimming through the rest of the many resources and ideas provided within, I was hooked and knew I wanted to try Tribes with my class. The concept behind Tribes is to build community groups within the classroom where students begin to learn from one another and use each other as resources and for support. Students are put into long term learning groups with one leader per group. Before groups are created students are asked to write their name along with seven others in the class they would like to have in their group. By doing this, the groups are then formed in a balanced way where effort is made to ensure each student has one person in their group they would like to work with.
On Friday’s class I introduced the Tribes concept and we did a few activities around what it means to be a community and how to act or “be” when working in a community. Students also filled in their cards with their name and the name of seven other students they would like to work with. I told the students they would learn who was in their Tribe the following week. Several students had questions, and many seemed eager to see how the groups would be formed. From an educating perspective, although Tribes may be a little frontend heavy, I believe if students are fully prepared and time is put into creating solid working Tribes that the learning outcome will be more than worth the effort. Today in class, the students saw the word Tribes written on the class schedule and were eager to find out who they would be in a Tribe with. When I was creating the groups I found they formed naturally. For the most part, I was not surprised to see who wanted to work with whom. When I released the Tribe groups there was a buzz of excitement and students got into their groups easily and the Tribe leaders assumed their roles well. Some of the leaders were a little slower to accept the role, yet I have confidence in their ability and believe they will both learn and share knowledge from the experience. I am looking forward to the next few weeks to see how the Tribes evolve and how the students embrace their new communities. I will post more on this topic and share the outcomes in the future.
Lesson Notes: I was excited to introduce Tribes into the classroom; this feeling has been a good reminder. I have been told, and do agree; when the students recognize your excitement it is much easier for them to get onboard. Excitement is infectious. A few questions to generate thought; what is something, which excites you that could be introduced into the classroom? Does it help build community?
Over the past two weeks I have looked for teaching ideas, which incorporate drama. I wanted to take the novel we are studying, “The Magician’s Elephant” and use drama as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding. I have done tableau (still body shape and space to show a concept frozen in time) activities with students in the past, and find they enjoy the learning experience. While searching for ideas I came across the concept of taking a chapter and breaking it into sections, then dividing the class into groups, and assigning each group a chapter section. Groups then prepare tableaus to show for their chapter section. Each group has a narrator and while reading the chapter section the narrator pauses at specific places while the rest of the group forms their next tableau scene. By doing this students must carefully read their chapter sections and fully understand the literature. The activity allows students to take the written word and construct a visual representation of the story.
In class I created six groups ranging from 5-6 group members and assigned each group a section from two chapters. I provided the class with ample time to prepare and encouraged them to create props for their tableaus. Since I had not yet done a drama lesson with the class I wanted to support each group with their tableaus and worked for 10-15mins individually with each group. While working with each group I asked the narrator to stand in the position of the audience with me and watch the tableaus with a critical eye. When the narrator began to view the tableau from the eye of a director they began to see changes, which could be made to make the presentation clearer. As the teacher, I asked the narrator to see if there was anything confusing about the position of the characters, or if someone could not be clearly viewed by the audience. I encouraged them to work as a group and often had the narrator ask group members to move or confer with one another to ensure they were presenting the story as they envisioned it. Each group was responsible for three tableaus.
Lesson Notes: The students did very well with this activity and I was impressed with their performances, understanding of the book, and comprehension of my instruction. Doing tableaus showed me that I can make activities more challenging and could have assigned longer sections from the book, and five tableaus instead of three. Ultimately, drama can be an exciting and rewarding way for student to get involved with English; provide them the time to prepare and enjoy the final performances.
Ms. Kolshuk's Blog
Welcome to my blog where I post about my teaching practice, ideas, findings and discuss topics of an educational nature. Please feel free to comment and/or email with any topic suggestions.