PHASE 4: EXCHANGING
Working on Learning Circle
This phase of the Learning Circle interaction is very exciting.
Your students will be very eager to see the responses to their project
request. Participation in the projects sponsored by the other classrooms
can also greatly enhance your students' learning. Successful projects
will take some facilitation by all of the teachers in the Learning Circle.
Hopefully you will be able to send at least one contribution from
your site to each of the projects sponsored in your Learning Circle. You
and your students can help make each project a success!
Organizing Writing Activities in the Classroom
The size of your Learning Circle has been designed to ensure
a comfortable and diverse working environment for you and your students.
We have found that groups of 7-9 classrooms are large enough to provide
diverse perspectives on a project, yet intimate enough to encourage regular
It is important to remember that the message exchange occurs
among classrooms, not between individual students. Since each Learning
Circle includes over 200 students, sending individual messages to each
other every week would result in mail overload. While some personal exchange
among students can motivate their work on projects, an extensive student-to-student
exchange adds little to the learning that takes place.
In projects with surveys, it is helpful to send a class
response rather than have each student respond separately. If each
student sent a separate survey response, there would be over 200
surveys for one classroom to compile! Here are some ideas for collecting
survey data for Learning Circle projects.
When students are asked specifically to share their personal
views, you will be faced with two important decisions:
- How many messages should you send?
- How should you select them?
It is wise not to send a large number of essays on the same
topic. While students are initially excited to receive mail, they soon
lose interest if they read message after message with similar content.
If you send only the "best" essays, many students may feel as if they
failed and will find little motivation to polish their work. All of your
students need to feel involved in the message exchange.
Organizing your classroom response to
involve each student in at least one Learning Circle project can ensure
the success of all projects sponsored in your Circle. Incorporate
cooperative learning strategies in the classroom can make your Learning
Circle experience more successful.
In some classrooms, teachers prefer to have students write
alone or to allow students to choose whether to write cooperatively or
independently. In this case, here are some other ways to make the decision
of which messages to send.
The Writing Process
One of the goals of the Learning Circle projects is to help
your students develop their writing skills across the curriculum. In some
projects, your students may be asked to write about a particular topic.
The following advice for organizing writing is consistent with the
writing process approach that has been very effective in improving
students' writing skills. The writing process can be conceptualized in
three stages:1) planning, 2) drafting
, and 3) polishing.
Regular Transmission of Student Work
Your students will be writing articles and/or submitting
data to all of the projects. It is important to set up classroom procedures
for sending and storing student work. Students
in other locations will be eager to see your work on a regular basis.
If you have easy access to the network, you may be sending messages whenever
they are ready. If you have to use a computer that is not in the classroom,
it is helpful to select a specific day or days of the week to send messages,
other sites will come to expect to see some work from your students based
on this pattern. This predictability helps all members of the Learning
Circle organize their project work. The use of consistent subject
headers will help others schools in storing their mail.
Responsible Team Work
The participants in your Learning Circle will be waiting
to see what you will be sending on their projects. It will help everyone
if you send a weekly classroom update message.
It is likely that you and your students will enjoy the challenge
of most, or all, of your Learning Circle projects. It is possible that
one of the projects may not capture your students' interest. It may be
too difficult, request information that they cannot find, or you may judge
the content not to be age appropriate or too controversial. You can help
your Circle partners by finding participants from another class. Another
option might be for you to write a short response yourself. By signing
up as a participant or finding someone outside of the class to respond
to a project not appropriate for your students, you make clear your commitment
to help all of the projects in your Learning Circle.
If, for some reason, there will not be a response from your
site for one or more of the projects, please let the sponsoring
class(es) know as soon as possible. It is not fair to your partners to
keep them waiting for a work that will not be coming. It is important
to let others know both what level of response to expect from your site
and when they can expect to receive it.
Learning to work in teams is an important work skill. Help
your students to understand that others are depending on them and they
are depending on others. In any team, there is usually a weak link, someone
who is unable to do as much as others had hoped. What happens in this
situation? What makes a productive team from one that falls apart? What
does it mean to call a group a team? Helping students to understand productive
and nonproductive strategies is part of the learning that takes place
in this unique environment. When faced with a non-productive team member
what strategies are likely to improve the situation? What strategies are
likely to lead to a worse team outcome?
Learning Circles are created by the interactions of everyone
in the team. Some Learning Circles are incredible experiences in group
cooperation and teamwork. Everyone is ready and eager to work and each
school team has the tools and time to contribute to all projects. In other
Circles the participation levels are not well matched. For example a few
schools might have a lab of networked computers and a period each day
devoted to their Learning Circle participation. Other schools might have
one or more computers in the classroom with student groups cycling through
to send their work. In some cases the only computer is found at the home
of the teacher who takes student work home each night and tries to keep
up with typing and sending. Different patterns of access to technology
are often reflected in the volume and quality of materials sent.
Students with access to network computers sometimes send high volumes
of unedited work. Students with limited access send less work and it may
or may not be of better quality.
Understanding differences, offers of help and humorous reminders
of deadlines are ways of helping others meet their deadlines. Insults,
demands and angry pleas are not as likely to increase group productivity.
Helping students to monitor their social skills as well as their work
on projects can be a very valuable education.
Teachers comment on their
experiences in exchanging work on Learning Circle projects.
The "Exchange of Student Work" Checklist
The "Exchange of Student Work" Checklist
will help you see if you are ready for Phase 5:Organizing the Circle Publication.
Copyright © 1997, 2002, Margaret