This is an evaluation of a lesson taught on Dreamtime Stories for a Stage 2 class. Importantly it details how mixed ability grouping strategies were utilised for the lesson, and what this impact it had on student's learning. It is certainly a strtegy I would implement again in the classroom.
Evaluation of A Lesson Taught on Dreamtime Stories
From the HSIE Unit - People and Their Beliefs, Stage 2
With a strong Aboriginal Education focus, Narromine Public School is well resourced in the area. Numerous book sets consisting of a big book, and copies of smaller books some with cassette tapes were sourced. Each set had a Dreamtime story focus, for example How Birds Got Their Colours and Why Emus Can’t Fly. The activity required students to work as a group to first read their story and then complete a retrieval chart, naming the title of the book, what was created in the story, who created it, the identification of any sacred places and any rules to live by. Each group then had to present their information to the rest of the class, so they were informed of all the Dreamtime stories looked at.
For this lesson, mixed ability groupings were used. Each group had four members and was organised with a known strong reader matched with a weaker student, and two others, to assist in the reading stage of the lesson. This was done as less able students were able to have their needs fulfilled, by being able to contribute something to the group and feel a sense of appreciation for their individual efforts (Edward & Watts, 2004, p.143), while the more able students also had their needs met, by assisting others, developing friendships and demonstrating a sense of power (Glasser, 1986, p.143). The matching of books for each group was also considered, with the more challenging to comprehend given to the most capable group, and the option of a cassette tape reading to be played for the more challenging book. This worked well, as the stronger reader was encouraged to read aloud to the rest of the group and assist the other students when it was their turn to read. This strategy worked as all members of the class are generally happy to help their peers, also being aware and considerate of other’s needs. Unfortunately in one group, the stronger readers decided to read the book to themselves, rather than helping the others, who then got sidetracked and disruptive, frustrated that they were not involved. This exemplifies that most students like to discuss their ideas with one another, as “almost all students need to talk about their learning, for it is through this that they make sense of it all.” (Groundwater-Smith et al., 2004, p. 68.) To ensure that all students were involved, the group were told to take turns reading aloud, as they were used to in reading groups, and as one student had already read the book to himself, he was able to assist the others in re-telling the story. This was certainly a consideration that was initially overlooked, as this particular student likes to work individually and doesn’t cooperate so well in the group setting. However, it is important that he is given the exposure to such a learning environment.
Another problem incurred was that some students were more willing to wait for another group member to complete their worksheet and then copy their answers. This has been labelled by Kerr and Braun (cited in Hertz-Lazarowitz & Miller, 1992, p. 257) as the ‘free-rider effect,’ and is the tendency for students to go along for a ride, either by choice or accident and not contribute to the group’s effort. This is most likely to occur in group situations where individual accountability is not made clear, and a single group outcome is the goal (McInerney and McInerney, 2006, p.300). Upon reflection, one way to avoid this would have been to give each group member a specific focus to look at; what was created or the identification of any sacred places, and then they would have had to talk and share responses to help fill in the other’s tables. However, it must be noted that the majority of the groups worked very well together and were keen to work on their presentations to the rest of the class. One group even created a role play of an incident in their story. This provided another point of reflection in which students perhaps should have then been asked to implement the creative arts, through either an artistic representation of their story or similar short dramatic performance. Whilst students enjoyed the opportunity to talk to their peers about their story, such a creative interpretation activity, may have provided for the development of a deeper understanding of their story, as only some learners find it easy to learn through watching and listening, while others need to be actively involved (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2003, p.68).