Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Glimpse of my Team Tasks

I have written in detail about my "Classroom Structure" and my Collaborative Teams, and I have talked about my new idea "Post It, PROVE It" strategy with teams.

In this post I am going to give you a glimpse of how I do "Team Tasks". After a lot of tweaks over the last couple of years, I have finally figured out an effective way of implementing "Team Tasks" with my students. Students who are not easily motivated and would love to be anywhere else but math class.

My team tasks go hand-in-hand with my "Classroom Structure" and team roles.  Not only do I utilize my team roles during guided instruction, I use the team roles in my "Team Tasks".  In my "Team Tasks" I have thoughtfully created questions that guide the students through the concept by color-coding diagrams and requiring them justify their reasoning using complete sentences.  In my "Team Tasks" it's not just about the answer, but about the process and justification.

"Team Tasks" and Organization:
My "Team Tasks" are usually 4 to 6 pages long and usually take more than one day to complete.  So I have a method for storing the "Team Tasks".  I have stacked file trays; one for each period. And in each period's file tray I have a set of team folders.  The team folders are color-coded with team colors.

If the "Team Task" is continuing the next day, the "Resource Manager" will get the team folder and put the team task into the team folder and put the team folder back in the team tray.  The next day, the "Resource Manager" will get the team folder and the team can continue on with the task.

This is such a time saver.  I do not have to collect, keep track of, or pass out anything.  I Love It! :o)

Task Manager:
For each of my "Team Tasks" I assign a "Task Manager".  The "Task Manager" is responsible for getting the team started on the task, and making sure each team member is following the task.  The "Task Manager" guides the task and makes sure that the "Team Mathematician" is reading when it is their turn.

Here is what the task manager reads to the team at the beginning of the task:
"Each team member should be involved and discussing throughout the entire task.  The team should follow the task exactly as it says. Each team member should read when it is their turn to be “Team Mathematician”.  The entire task should be discussed and completed as a team.  All answers should be in complete sentences using academic vocabulary."

Student Teacher:
My team tasks sometimes utilize the role of  "Student Teacher".  The role of "Student Teacher" rotates through the team members, requiring each of the team members to take the role of "Student Teacher."  The "Student Teacher" reads through the guided question, and the team members follow along and complete the question with the "Student Teacher".

Here is an example of a question using the team role of "Student Teacher".

Team Mathematician:
When not using the role of "Student Teacher", my team tasks use the role of "Team Mathematician".  I utilize this team role because it requires all of the students to be involved throughout the entire task. The role of "Team Mathematician" rotates through each team member, requiring each of the team members to take part in the task.  The "Team Mathematician" is responsible for reading the question to the team and guiding the discussion of that question.  The "Team Mathematician" is not responsible for answering the question or solving the problem by themselves.  All questions with "Team Mathematician" require a team discussion and all team members are required to give input.

Here are some examples questions from various tasks using the team role of "Team Mathematician".

My Role as the Facilitator:
When my students are doing a "Team Task", I am able to walk around the room and listen to the team discussion and see their work.  I love this because when I am listening to the conversation I can check for understanding.  I can tell if they are understanding the concept or having misconceptions.  I can immediately clear up any misconceptions or praise the great work.   I love hearing the mathematical conversations and debates.

My Expectations:
I have very high expectations for my "Team Tasks" and as I walk around the room, the students know that I am looking for academic vocabulary and mathematical discourse.  They know that I am looking to see that the "Team Task" is being followed exactly as it says, and that the entire team is on the same question.  No team member is allowed to go ahead, and the team cannot leave a team member behind.

Last year, I had 100% participation in all of my "Team Tasks", because of the role of "Task Manager" and the fact that nobody wanted to be the one holding the team back. The students also realized how much they learned through the discussion and working together as a team.

There is a lot of reading and writing in my "Team Tasks" and this has been an effective strategy in improving the students understanding of the mathematical concepts.  This year I am taking my "Team Tasks" to the next level by focusing on their written justification. I want their written justification to be more explicit and precise. This part will be a work in progress.  :o)


  1. What an informative post. You have really thought about how to keep all students engaged during group work. Love it!