05 March 2014

Collaboration Conferences in the TL

Download the rubric free at TPT!
When some of the strongest personalities in the class end up in the same group--by choice or by chance, discussing their contributions to the project can be touchy, or even explosive. But it doesn't have to be.

In fact, I've had just such a group tell me they enjoyed the experience. And it's not because they got to hear how wonderful they were for the millionth time. They heard some hard truths, but they were also heard, too.

Step 1: Introduce the rubric
My rubric is in Spanish and is, dare I say, some pretty solid comprehensible input. It is a patchwork of BIE collaboration expectations and my school's collaborative rubric condensed and simplified into as many cognates and familiar structures as possible. Students highlight the cognates, and we make up motions for other words like trabajar and then nunca, poco, a veces, mucho, and siempre. Once they get what each standard  means, we can all pretty much agree that they're traits we want in our group members (e.g. listens to others, offers good ideas and participates).

Step 2: Work together
I have them set goals on Schoology and report on their progress for a few days before we come back to the rubric. We have to have something to really talk about, right?

Step 3: Group conference (lite)
At the beginning of Spanish I, I tell them I'll speak Spanish to them, but aside from nunca, poco, a veces, mucho, and siempre, they can respond to my questions (ripped straight from the rubric or simply "¿Por qué?" or "¿Por ejemplo?") in English. This way we can establish the procedure and the reflective practice. I gather the whole group, starting with a volunteer or victim, and ask the group members where the volunteer/victim stands on each standard one by one. The one in the hot seat gets to contribute their own assessment of their performance last for each standard, and I, in all my sagacity, make a call based on what I hear and have seen as to where that person falls for each, poking the appropriate answer on my new handy dandy Google form.

Step 4: Catch and release
Students go back to work for another few days while I finish conferences with other groups with a clearer picture of how they need to improve. Time permitting, I come back to them before the end of the project to give them a chance to put into practice what they've learned about themselves and their compatriots. Time not permitting, this gets pushed to the next project time, but either way, they get another chance to prove themselves.

Step 5: Award badges
I whipped up a few collaboration badges on Schoology: Responsabilidad Personal, Participante Activo, and Amigo Amable. The rubric is divided into 3 sections, so if anyone got "siempre" on everything in one section, they got a badge (only 5 kids got badges this first time--and those were the amigo ones). It's a way to recognize accomplishment without tying it to a grade and also giving them something to strive for the next time. Eventually, I may add other 21st century skills, but it's a start.

Step 6: Evaluation review & goal setting
After recognizing the badged among them, I'll have them take a look back at their collaboration ratings. They've had a little time to try again, so they need to pick out their strengths and weaknesses to discuss with their groups. They'll pick out their strengths--where their siempres and muchos are--and tell their groups what they will continue to do--promise them, if you will. In response, their compañeros will either agree (gracias, muy bien) or question them (¿No necesitas...más?) Then they'll share two weaknesses, what they will do more, and compañeros can agree or question their choices, maybe convince them to focus on a different collaborative goal. I think I'll even have them make little cards with their two weakness promises as reminders.

Step 7: Re-release + promise checks
After they make their group promises, they will go back to work with their amigos, and then, at the end of each session, I think I'll have them AND their compañeros check off if they've fulfilled their promises that day--just a quick check, plus, or no check.

Step 8: Group conference (for REAL)
Then, the groups check themselves off on the rubrics once more and meet with me to discuss their findings. We will still talk in terms of nunca, poco, a veces, mucho, and siempre, but we'll also add mejor and peor, más and menos to relate to progress.

Step 9: Wash, rinse, repeat.
The theory goes that if we repeat this process with each of the three units, each student will leave at semester's end a little better prepared for true 21st century collaboration.


  1. Would you be able to share your google form with me? mandy.gillin@redclayschools.com
    Thank you! Mandy Gillin

    1. Hola, Mandy! I had to make a copy, since mine has a required district sign-in. Hope this helps!