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sent home or distributed at open house in the beginning of the school year. Parents or care- givers are another excellent source of information, and they usually appreciate having the opportunity to tell about their child.

Cooperation does not just happen. It takes time, planning, and practice. Cooperation is an abstract idea and will be better understood by students if they have a chance to reflect on an actual cooperative experience. After the concept has been taught and students have practiced cooperation, they can then suggest issues that need to be addressed and rules that need to be established when working in groups. Rules for cooperative groups might include: 1) students must be willing to help anyone who needs it; 2) students must be responsible for their own learning and their own actions; and 3) students can only ask the teacher a question if all mem- bers of that group have the same question. This last rule helps the group develop as a team to find an answer or solve a problem rather than immediately asking the teacher.

Cooperative groups work best if each member of the group has a job that holds him ac- countable in taking an active role. Jobs can include a monitor that keeps everyone on task, a writer that keeps notes on the discussion, a materials manager who is responsible to get any materials needed, a reporter that presents information orally, a thinking monitor that ensures everyone has an opportunity to share, or any other position that the group activity requires. Students can develop job titles and job descriptions. These can be written on index cards and distributed at the beginning of each cooperative group activity to ensure that roles are routinely redistributed.

Class meetings provide another method for developing cooperation and responsibility in a positive classroom environment. Depending on the grade level, these meetings can take place daily or weekly. Structured around the issues or concerns of students, topics are dis- cussed in an orderly problem-solving structure. First, the problem must be identified. Stu- dents bring up the problem or issue to discuss by means of a suggestion box. Different age groups require strategies geared for that age group but a good rule of thumb is that each suggestion or entry must be signed by the person posting the issue. This signature helps eliminate some inappropriate or ridiculous ideas. Other student’s names cannot be included in the problem. After the issue is selected and read, students brainstorm possible solutions for the problem. To exchange ideas, they sit in a circular format to practice actively listening and cooperative sharing. A timer or clock can be set to eliminate lengthy discussions. This is followed by a discussion of these ideas and a brainstorming of solutions. Students then choose a solution and make a plan for implementation. Class meetings give students own- ership of their classroom community. They are empowered to address each problem, then develop and implement solutions.

Virginia Educational Leadership

Vol. 7 No. 1

Spring 2010

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