Different modes in the classroom

I went to a PD with Rhonda Bondie last year, where she talked about differentiating for students the differences between on-you-own learning and team learning. She included distinctions between group learning routines (where students have structured interactions with each other) with what she calls table talk, where students are free to ask neighbors for help, but it’s unstructured, and independent work, where students don’t interact with anyone. She has shared a pdf called group_review.pdf at this website where the first page discusses this in detail: http://www.all-ed.org/fileshare_library_files?document_library_id=11

I’ve been thinking about this idea that our students don’t necessarily know or understand the distinctions we might want to use between different “modes” in our classroom – why is it okay to speak to my neighbor when I’m working at my own table sometimes, but not all the time? I think it’s important to be explicit about that stuff with your kids, and I like the succinct table that Rhonda has it organized it, but I think it’s missing a few components. First, I think it should include something about what it should SOUND like (i.e. using a whisper, vs. normal voice to the whole class, vs. speaking at specific times according to a routine). Second, I think only dividing the class into those three things (independent, group learning routine and table talk) doesn’t address all of the “settings” that a class might be in. So I’ve tried to fill in the gaps below.

Whole Class Discussions: (facilitated by teacher, but ideally, includes strategic use of talk moves and lots of student voices)

Where: Sit where you are (or I could do “join the circle” if I decide to move desks aside for these – I can’t commit yet, so I think I’ll leave this as it is)

How: Structured collaboratively (or should I say moderated by teacher?)

Help? Raise hand and ask class/teacher or use classroom as resource

Sounds like: One person speaking at time, people wait to be called on, hands are raised, Project voice so whole class can hear


Group Routines: (structured routine involving groups, usually timed down to the minute with specific instructions about who is saying what and when)

Where: Sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye with partner(s)

How: Structured collaboratively (follow specific procedure together)

Help? Use classroom and peers as resources for learning

Sounds like: Quiet voices, students speak according to the guidelines of their roles


Group Activities: (Students work with peers in semi-structured manner to accomplish common goal, but there is no structure about who speaks, when, and what they should say)

Where: Sit in groups (move desks)

How: Semi-structured (Students work together towards common goal)

Help? Use classroom and peers as resources for learning; group can request teacher guidance (if no member of group can answer question)

Sounds like: Quiet voices, students speak only to members of their own group or to teacher


Table Talk: (Mostly alone, but allowed to whisper to partner)

Where: Sit where you are

How: unstructured, collegially/friendly.

Help? Use classroom, peers, and teacher as resources for learning

Sounds like: Whispers, students speak only to elbow partners


Independent: (completely alone, cannot talk to anyone)

Where: Eyes on own paper

How: Working alone; self-organized.

Help? Use classroom resources for support (notebook, anchor charts, projector, etc.) OR no support (if quiz/test)

Sounds like: SILENT, students don’t even talk to teacher.


I think I want to create a poster of this for my classroom for the fall and post it and discuss the differences with students – and then refer to what type of mode we’re in. I’m not nuts about the similarities in names between group routines and group activities. I wonder if there’s a way to distinguish them more with the name. I’m also wondering how to make some of these more succinct for the students/on the poster. (I’ve included perhaps more detail than necessary on the visual here, so I could spell it out explicitly for myself too!).

Any tweaks you’d recommend before I do that?


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