Saturday, May 26, 2007


I just assigned my students their final project in my class for the year. It's a group project.

All year I have struggled with group projects. I have experimented with different ways on how to form groups. I have tried choosing the groups for the students. I have tried letting them pick their own groups. I have even tried giving them flexible groups where they can change groups if they want. All of those methods worked fine. But today I tried something new.

For this last project I asked for volunteers to be captains. "The captain of the group" I explained to the class "should be someone responsible, someone who is here everyday, someone who can lead the rest of the group." Before I could finish with the description there were hands waiving in the air and shouts of "me, me!" coming up from the back of the room.

I couldn't believe the enthusiasm. This was coming from a group of students that asked for extra credit if I wanted them to something as simple as read aloud in class. They were desperate to be leaders!

I was elated.

I had the class narrow the volunteers down to three and brought them to the front of the room to choose groups. They picked the members of their team like the gym class does for kickball games. One captain chooses a member, then the next one, then the next one and repeat. It was great. There wasn't any complaining or fighting. They broke up in to groups and worked on their project with the most ease I had seen all year.

In all of my classes I was surprised to see who volunteered to be a captain. In my last period, Darius Newcom showed an interest. "You want to be a captain, Darius?" I asked him. He came up to the front of the room.

Darius has been half-involved all year. He often sleeps instead of doing his work and always snores loud enough to make the whole class erupt in laughter. I have never seen him show much interest in anything, but that changed today. He picked his group-mates and they went off to a corner of the classroom. I heard Darius delegating responsibilities and really encouraging his team members to work. I had never seen him so serious and so engaged before. Before he left the room he stopped by my desk.

"Are you proud of me?" he asked, smiling. "Yes" I told him.


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