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Low-Tech Group Participation Quizzes

September 14, 2011

One thing I’m really trying to do in the coming months is re-emphasize group work. I started my year saying communication and group work would be important, but then back-tracked when I realized how many holes I needed to fill regarding algebra and arithmetic knowledge (it’s hard to do group work when half or all of the members don’t know how to subtract negative numbers – and, to be fair, it isn’t their peer’s job to teach them). Now that the algebra review is out of the way, we’re delving into a unit on logic where I feel everyone will be on the same page and I’m looking forward to planning more student-centered activities.

One strategy I’ve been interested to try is the Group Participation quiz – I read about it here: (and is later implemented here: I really want to implement this, but I have some reservations. My class sizes are big enough that I have around 32 kids per class, which is 8 groups per class – I’m not confident I can go back and forth between my computer and the groups fast enough. I’m also still training my students to work as a group – communicate, be polite, not give up, etc – so I need to be a constant presence around the room. Plus, there are some very real physical, technological barriers to implementing the SMART board variation of the group participation quiz.

So – here’s what I’m thinking – my variation of the quiz. Each group starts the day with a 5/10 on the activity – their grade can either go up or down. They gain/lose points based on the following rubric. I plan to have this attached to the first 5-10 group activities we do:

After that, groups work on the assignment as they should (assume there is some amazing group activity planned where the instructions are clearly spelled out and it immediately hooks and engages the students… yah, only in my dreams too). I walk around with a seating chart that I use to take notes on:

Each dark outline is a desk – a student’s name goes in the middle – the 8 boxes at the top are for the group attributes – the 6 boxes around the student are for individual attributes. Using this, I can walk around the room and collect my data at my fingertips, as well as (1) be a presence in the classroom, (2) redirect students, and (3) facilitate correct group work. Here’s what I imagine a sample filled-out rubric would look like:

I’m expecting that it’ll take some time for me to get used to what each group attribute is, but I think this solves my problem of (1) effectively monitoring and grading group work simultaneously, and (2) gathering data in real-time and being able to give feedback immediately at the end of the lesson. I’m trying this tomorrow with a ‘Group Definitions’ activity for adjacent angles, linear pair, supplementary angles, and complementary angles. We’ll see how it goes.

Any feedback would be sooooooo greatly appreciated.

One Comment
  1. I’m not really a gain points/lose point kinda guy but that being said I really like how you’ve defined for your students specific behaviors. I’m all in favor of being very specific in your language (turn and face me vs. pay attention) and I definitely think that kids, and adults actually, just don’t know what things like “work together” means. And even when they do, if it means something different to the observer, they’re SOL anyway.

    As for your actual list, I think there might be some overlap. Some of your points are broad “respectful” and others are very specific “accept correct incorrect…” That might fold into respectful or something else.

    The “stop working” one is a bit problematic. Sometimes groups are just stuck. Sometimes they’re thinking and processing. You might want to redefine that one or just be sure that you acknowledge the difference between quietly thinking, stuck, and “stopped working.”

    I’ve found it helpful to video tape and show students working together. You can point out specific things and students start noticing how teachers can just tell who is working (leaning in, body language, gesturing, etc).

    Other than my philosophical issues of gaining/losing points, because it’s actually “for points” you would need to be sure to spend equalish time at each group. This might be hard. I know I sometimes get bogged down at a single table that is struggling or has something really cool to show me.

    PS – scribd isn’t showing any of the “g” letters so I’ve been reading your documents in a Ricky Ricardo voice.


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