As a teacher, I defaulted to “group work” far too often. “It’s good for them” I’d tell myself.
But, once, during a group work time, a student approached and quietly asked:
Do I have to work in a group?
Of course, I thought I was doing my students a favor by giving them time to work together on an assignment. Interaction, collaboration, a break from listening and a chance to discuss – all positives for students, right? Yet, here was a student who wanted to work alone.
She wasn’t anti-social. She wasn’t unpopular. She wasn’t lonely.
She just wanted to work by herself.
Letting Go Of Assumptions
I realized that group size was another way I could differentiate for my gifted students’ diverse needs. I now make sure I include times throughout the day where students can choose to work alone or in pairs or in trios.
As I learned to differentiate in a new way, it certainly made me consider what other options would improve my students’ learning environment. Because that’s really what this young person was asking me to do.
- Some students (especially among the gifted) are introverted and simply need time to work alone.
- Not everyone thinks creating a multimedia computer project is enjoyable.
- Given a wide range of options, some students will pick the five-paragraph essay!
Now certainly, there are many times during the day when students have to take the one choice I give them. But I’m certainly glad that student was brave enough to ask me if she could work alone. It reminded me to truly think from the point of view of my students.
And that has made me a better teacher.