Every year, we hope, researchers gain new insights into what works in the classroom—and what doesn’t. In 2017, a group of scientists made the case for why social and emotional learning is essential in schools. We learned that negative stereotypes can discourage students of color from going to college, and that a reflective writing exercise can help. We also learned that it’s OK for second graders to use their fingers to count, and that text messages sent to parents boost family engagement and student attendance.
There are many advantages to using Twitter chats in class. Teachers can use them to encourage digital literacy, offer immediate feedback on students’ ideas, and track participation via the chat hashtag. The format allows a large number of students to share thoughts at the same time, and may help shy students participate as they don’t have to speak in public. And Twitter chats can inspire creativity by allowing both students and the teacher to supplement the discussion with digital resources like photos and videos.
In the glittery bustle of the holidays, teachers often scramble to fit in last-minute lessons and refocus students dreaming of vacation excitement. It’s worthwhile to pause in the middle of all that excitement to build in reflective moments of gratefulness.
Although my first year of teaching was more than two decades ago, I clearly remember how my second graders returned from Thanksgiving more settled and focused. I was teaching at a public school in Oakland, California, and as December began, I was hopeful, energetic and increasingly confident about the learning routines I’d established in my class. Yet cliques had formed among some of the girls, and too often kids were not nice to each other. Another teacher had given me a book called Tribes, a guide to building a safe and caring learning community in the classroom. I wholeheartedly adopted it.
What’s ideal when it comes to collaboration in our classrooms? Here’s one coveted scenario: several children gathered at a table engaged in a high-level task, discussing, possibly debating an issue, making shared decisions, and designing a product that demonstrates all this deeper learning.
As teachers, we’d love to see this right out of the gate, but this sort of sophisticated teamwork takes scaffolding. It won’t just happen by placing students together with a piece of provocative text or an engaging task. So how do we begin this scaffolded journey? Here are some steps for supporting students in deep and meaningful collaboration.