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c6g c6g is offline
 
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Can students work independently anymore?
Old 01-12-2018, 11:51 AM
 
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I've noticed something interesting lately, and wonder if anyone else has seen it.

When I'm doing whole-class lessons, I can keep things well under control--most of the time. When it's time to work independently (not on a test), I've been noticing that many students just can't do it. Without a partner or small group, they're lost. They get up and talk to others, draw, read a book, or engage in a number of other work-avoidance strategies. In some classes, very few students do it. In others, it seems to be half the class. Giving these students some personal attention does help, but some want the teacher to do everything for them.



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Old 01-12-2018, 12:58 PM
 
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Yes, I notice it! They're very used to doing group work or shoulder partner work. I worked in a 2nd grade for 3 days this week and when it came time to work on their own I found as the 3 days went along I had to threaten them. When it got too loud I told them that was it and whoever talked would get a warning and then move their clip down. Then I had to proceed to give out 2 or 3 warnings until they quieted down. I didn't get mad, just matter of fact and in a calm voice made the "threat." I've done that in 6th grade, too.

I am interested in hearing what other people say. Is there someone out there who can keep every class they work in quiet during independent work?
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Old 01-12-2018, 05:35 PM
 
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Yes, I’ve noticed a sizable increase in helplessness in the last few years, at least in elementary school.
Just two days ago, I handed out a language arts assignment that the teacher specified was to be done as independent work, so I made sure to emphasize that as I gave instructions. As soon as the papers were handed out, a student came up to me and whined, “Can we work in partners?” Well, no, you can’t. You might actually have to put forth more than a nanosecond of effort on this assignment.
I’ve even had them ask to work with a partner on a test! Total disconnect. They also have a very difficult time following instructions with 2 steps, but that’s a whole other rant.
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depends on the task
Old 01-12-2018, 06:10 PM
 
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It's all about differentiating instruction to achieve the goal of acquisition BUT really it all depends on the task at hand. Some students try to pull that off as a pass for socialization minus the learning without saying. So what I do to get around that is remind the students that the assignment is not a complicated endeavour and then there are students who may be language learners. So with my language learners, I try to provide them with socialization so that they are at an advantage. It's also about limit setting so instruct my students saying that they only have 15 minutes to work with a partner of their own choice while respecting others that want to be left alone and that's if the activity calls for teaming. This takes careful planning and ongoing monitoring with degree of accountability in order to pull this off.
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Old 01-12-2018, 08:23 PM
 
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I usually insist on independent work to keep the noise levels down. Honestly, it does make a difference, particularly with middle schoolers. And working on your own means thinking on your own, figuring out on your own, thinking for yourself - something we need to encourage.


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It depends...
Old 01-13-2018, 05:20 AM
 
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Kids definitely prefer partnering or working in a group, but many will work well independently depending on what the "work" is... Even in groups, kids readily get "off task." As you note, they may not do the assigned work, but they'll draw, read a book... different "work."

I haven't thought about it a lot, but I think part of the issue here is that we aren't giving kids enough socialization time. Short recesses, quiet during lunch...

In addition, we are prone to fads and "group" and "buddy" work has been seen as "the way to go" for a few years now. I think there's an irony in this aspect, because I've seen an increasing trend towards groups finding it difficult to work effectively together. I recall one group spending the entire period arguing over where they were going to sit to do the work.

Another piece of it is simple work avoidance for a myriad of reasons. I can think of some other things I should be doing right now. We call it "procrastination."

I know one adult who every time she needs information or has a question whips out her phone and creates a Facebook post. "Does anybody know what time the drug store opens?" I wonder how much independent work she did during her school career.

I also teach adults... by then preferences are fairly well established. One generality--most adults love group discussions. But some don't like group work. In both cases, it's about participation and contribution. Typically non-participation in a discussion is not a problem, but not contributing to getting the work done is a problem. I have had students request they be allowed to work alone simply to avoid freeloaders.

Interesting, multidimensional stuff!
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Changes in Students
Old 01-13-2018, 06:14 AM
 
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I've noticed changes in students over the years too.

When I was a kid, independent work was the norm, and group work was an occasional thing. But I think that recent trends have pushed group work so much that now that seems normal to them, and independent work seems foreign. (So does silence, for that matter.) As an introvert, I probably would have hated going to school now.

I also think it's related to the larger trend in our culture of seeing kids as delicate and helpless. Kids are far less independent at home than they used to be. For so many, every moment is supervised and directed. They're missing out on opportunities to develop real self-esteem and confidence, so they have less to draw on.

One other thing that I'm not sure I can word correctly - Our society in general has become more individualized. Everyone is encouraged to "do their own thing." (Picture people waiting in line, all on different phone apps - but it's bigger than that, too.) It's great for making people accepted, but it doesn't give kids a lot of practice in situations where there are certain expectations to follow. They're used to being able tweak situations to suit their mood.
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Old 01-13-2018, 11:51 AM
 
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It's a skill that needs to be taught like any other. I'm not sure when it stopped being taught early in school careers, but so many of my middle school kids can't work by themselves without the need for constant validation that they are working correctly. Some days it drives me nuts. I've had to teach them how to work independently, which is something that I don't feel should be a skill just being learned in middle school.
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One more thing...
Old 01-15-2018, 03:14 AM
 
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Reading the interesting additional comments brought to mind another piece. Many parents seem to think their primary responsibility is to protect and defend their children. They haven't found the balance that encourages independence and self-control, risk-taking, etc. This contributes to the tattling issue in lower grades.

It doesn't work for a sub, but I have seen a system where each kid has a flip card on their desk... if the red card is up it means "I need help and can't go on..." The yellow card means "I can keep working but would like some help." Green means, "I'm good!" I like it!
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Good point
Old 01-15-2018, 01:37 PM
 
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When I was a student that was basically considered cheating.

Now they can talk all class and play games and music on their Ipads and phones.

Times have changed.



Last edited by subasaurus; 01-15-2018 at 02:00 PM..
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:39 PM
 
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In my experience, I have noticed that some teachers feed this behavior in their students. (Is this what "common core" looks like?) I have been instructed to give "partner tests" in various elementary classrooms this year, and rarely is there a math, reading, or writing assignment that is not oriented toward the kids picking partners. At the high school level, students work on one project for a month in groups of 3 or more. As a result, an assignment that would take an individual just a few classes to complete becomes a social gathering where no work gets done. Doesn't help that teachers actually encourage/require kids to use their iphones to do the assignment! How the heck are you supposed to monitor that?? (And as a side note, what school REQUIRES students to own an expensive phone to do a project/use the internet? They are telling me that at $4k-6k per taxpayer they can't get enough computers for the kids to use?) And yes, I live in this district... Oy vey...
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@MaineSub
Old 02-01-2018, 03:37 AM
 
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Quote:
It doesn't work for a sub, but I have seen a system where each kid has a flip card on their desk... if the red card is up it means "I need help and can't go on..." The yellow card means "I can keep working but would like some help." Green means, "I'm good!" I like it!
That is a neat idea!
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Old 02-05-2018, 11:19 PM
 
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"As an introvert, I probably would have hated going to school now."

Same here! Oh God, yes. Never any moments of peace. Never any opportunities to just do your own thing alone.

I often wonder if all this new age thinking is doing more harm than good. Example: "Here, kid. Have an iPad and chat with your friends all period long. Now try to learn without getting distracted..."
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