Making Cooperative Learning Work for Teaching and Learning, pp. 5 of 9

ii) The Quiet Signal

One way to gain the class’s attention is to use the quiet signal (see Figure 4). To make the signal, the teacher raises his/her right hand to signal for the class to stop their work and pay attention to him/her. Students who see the raised hand will stop talking, raise their right hands, pass the signal to their friends by nudging them and attend to the teacher. The teacher will only begin to talk when everyone’s right hand is raised. Other ways of getting students’ attention are using a bell or a timer, clapping twice or more or switching off the lights before switching them on again (Kagan, 1994). Whatever the way chosen to get the students’ attention, it is important that the teacher repeats the steps a few times for students to become familiar with the strategy.

iii) 6-inch or 15-cm Voice

This is a technique to get students to lower their voices and speak softly during group activity (Ng & Lee, 1996). 

iv) Team Then Teacher or TTT Rule

If a member has a question, he/she will ask his/her group members first. This is to train students to rely on their group members as a valuable source of help. This will also free teachers from having to attend to every query when the groups have the answers themselves. The freed-up time can be then used by teachers to assist those groups with genuine learning difficulties. If the group is unable to answer the question, then all the group members will raise their hands to consult the teacher (Ng & Lee, 1996). 

v) Sponge Activities

These are short activities that are related to the main task or topic which teachers can ask groups that finish their work first to do. These activities soak up the extra time between the first and last group to finish. Examples of sponge activities for the Primary 3 housing unit are getting students to read a short story on Lim Kim San (also known as Mr HDB) and take a quiz. But before administering the sponge activities, teachers should check that students have really understood and finished their work. Sometimes, instead of sponge activities, teachers can request the fast workers to assist other groups who have yet to complete their work (Curran, 1998).

vi) Helping Students with Poor Social Skills

Sometimes, groups do not make much work progress because of certain students with behavioural problems that interfere with the learning of others in the groups. The following are some challenges that may be encountered when managing groupwork and some possible solutions.  

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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