An Argument for Collaborative Work

By on April 19, 2016

At LiteracyTA, we believe the achievement gap includes any student who does not reach his or her academic goals, not just struggling readers and writers. If a student has a vision or dream for his or her schooling, we want that dream to become a reality. Students who do not accomplish their goals may not be considered “struggling,” but they certainly have fallen short of something they have attempted to do. Achievement gaps can have real consequences for our students. Some students may not qualify for a class or program, some will fall behind their peers and as a result have fewer opportunities, and others may may not succeed in college due to a lack of academic literacy skills. Although we do not believe college is the only way, we do believe that students should be ready by the time they graduate high school to choose what they want to do. That means, all students should have the academic skills and qualifications to get into college even if they choose a different life path. 

Schools and classroom teachers can do a number of things to ensure success for all students, and focusing on sound teaching practices can make a significant impact on narrowing the achievement gap. When looking at the Response to Intervention (RTI) model, classroom instruction (what teachers do with students on a daily basis) makes the greatest impact on student achievement. We know this. LiteracyTA understands how valuable teachers are to student success and recognizes the role a teacher plays in narrowing the achievement gap.

Collaborative work is a teaching practice that can help all levels of students reach their academic goals. To us, collaborative work is more than assigning small group tasks that keep students busy for a set amount of time. Planning collaborative activities that are student-centered, thoughtfully designed, and driven by student learning outcomes will make a tremendous impact on student achievement.

Beyond practicing state literacy standards for speaking and listening, collaborative work can offer support to students who need extra support with language and/or content. When students work together, they can ask each other questions, test out their knowledge, experience being the teacher and the student, and they can learn important skills related to developing and managing projects together. Most importantly, when the classroom teacher sets up purposeful projects and removes him or herself from the learning experience, students learn how to think more critically and solve problems on their own. When students experience success with collaborative groups and are given time for meaningful reflection, their confidence and motivation increases, so they are more prepared to support themselves with each new challenge.

And let’s not forget about engagement. Students are like us. They like to talk. They like to interact. They want to learn with others. Humans learn and process information through reading, thinking, speaking, and writing. Most curriculum is experienced through reading and listening. Students need increased opportunities to talk, reflect, and exchange ideas in class. They need time to listen to each other. Humans, for the most part, are social beings. Let’s leverage this strength!

In summary, collaborative work is an essential teaching methodology that can narrow the achievement gap by providing...

  • a mix of supports,
  • situations that teach critical thinking and problem solving skills, and
  • opportunities for students to take ownership of their own learning.  

Make collaborative work your focus for the 2016-2017 school year. Contact to learn how.

Follow us on Instagram @literacyta and Twitter @literacyta for great ideas for teaching reading, speaking, and writing skills.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
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