Cooperative learning is one of the best memory activities

Cooperative learning is one of the best memory activities for improving the memory of school aged children. Allowing students to talk about the learning can help with memory problems in children.

The one who is doing the most talking in your classroom is probably the one who is doing the most learning.

The moment I heard that, it changed everything for me and for my students. I began to rethink everything I had ever done in my classroom, threw out the desks and rows, and started over. It is the best decision I ever made for both me and my students.

Once again, it's about language. Talking is what takes learning from short term memory into long term memory, and this is important if you want to help your students hang on to what they have learned beyond the test on Friday. Once I switched to cooperative learning in my classroom, I noticed that when my children came back from winter holiday that they actually remembered what we had done beforehand! It was amazing!

Their vocabulary scores on the standardized test at the end of the year said it all - Allowing my students to work together in groups improved not only their vocabulary but memory and learning as well.

How to Get Your Kids Started Working in Groups

Centers are the best model for cooperative learning. You can set them up in different areas of the room, and this gives you the opportunity to work with small groups of children while the others are doing high-quality activities. A listening center, computer center, and an art center are very good choices.

They aren't just for primary classrooms, either. Elementary and middle grades math centers with high interest, quality math center activities give kids a chance to work together and also give teachers the opportunity to work with small groups of students.

Centers give you time to work with small groups of children.

Kindergarten classroom arranged for centers

Another approach is to allow students to work on classwork assignments in groups. In my class we call them "Support Groups," and three students work together. The key is to assign jobs to each member of the group.

Here are the jobs assigned to the members of our Support Groups:

  1. Group Leader - responsible for keeping group members on task and focused
  2. Stenographer - responsible for doing the writing for the group during certain activities
  3. Materials Manager - responsible for getting/returning materials such as rulers, markers, etc.

Most students who have come to me have not had very much experience working together so I have to teach them how to do so appropriately. It takes work and constant supervision at first, but the rewards make it all worth it. One important rule which will make things much easier is that though group members may and are expected to talk with each another, they are not permitted to communicate with those outside their support group!

Once you make this clear through redirection and guidance, students appreciate the opportunity to work together. Often they understand the language of another student better than they understand mine and often learn more from each other than they could ever learn from me.

There have been groups who simply could not handle working in groups of three, and for those groups we worked with partners. It worked out well, and I used the concept of "numbered heads" from Learning Focused Strategies.

In either case, if students are working together, the trick is to get them to stay on topic and talk about what they are doing. In the right column you will find some of the ways I have learned to motivate kids to do that.

Creative Grouping may be used additionally at intervals throughout the year in order to reinforce Common Core standards and promote critical thinking.

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Back to Memory from Cooperative Learning

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Practical Motivational Strategies

Here are some ideas for motivating groups of students to stay on topic in their groups.

Class Motto - In my math classroom, our motto is "Be a Problem Solver, Not a Problem Maker" - and we aren't talking about math problems, either! Having a motto has helped with both management and motivation with my students. It gives everyone a common focus, and I'm sure you can come up with the perfect one for your room!

Sticker Cards - Kids of all ages LOVE stickers! Cut squares from colored file folders, purchase a collection of small stickers, and you are set. Whenever I want to reward positive behaviors, I give stickers. At the end of each grading period (nine weeks for us) I treat students to different reward activities, depending on how many stickers they have collected.

Group of the Day - At the end of each class, I award stickers to the group which has done the best job staying on task and helping one another with their classwork. I write a number 5 on each sticker with a Sharpie so all members of the group receive one which counts as 5 stickers.

Circolate and Percolate - Yes, I know "circulate" isn't spelled correctly, but this phrase reminds me that it is what I need to be doing during group work if I am not working with a group of students myself. Sitting at my desk is setting my kids up for failure, and I need to be "out and about" to make sure everything is proceeding smoothly. This also makes me available to help any group who needs it.