My elementary education students are creating vlogs that explain why different algorithms work for different operations. They have been creating roughly one video per week, posting them, and then getting feedback from the course grader. The only graded part of this is at the end of the semester after many drafts.

This week, we did a jigsawing-type activity to improve the videos (like most everything else, this idea was inspired by Andy Rundquist. On Tuesday, I split the students into four groups: one for addition, one for subtraction, one for multiplication, and one for division. The students came to class having watched all of the videos on their particular operation, and the class period was spent deciding what makes for a good explanation for that operation. At the end of the class, we split into new groups where one member of the group had just studied addition, one subtraction, one multiplication, and one division.

Today, we spent the entire class period reviewing videos in these teams. One team member was an “expert” on each operation from Tuesday, and they made suggestions on how to improve the explanations.

I asked everyone if this was useful enough to repeat on our fractions algorithms, and every student said that it was (most were emphatic). This appears to be a success.

My one reservation: although I am not sure, it appears that some students are trying to memorize a good explanation rather than understand. I know that I will be able to tell which students really understand from the oral exams, but I am wondering if it will be clear from the videos. Does anyone have any experience with memorizers?

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7 Responses to “Jigsawing”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist Says:

    I like this jigsawing that you’re doing. In Global Physics Department we coached Brendan Noon who video taped such an activity and it really gave me some ideas. As for memorizers, certainly the oral exam is a way to deal with them, but only if you have enough exams to do it. It would be great to somehow enhance the classroom culture so that fellow students would find a way to identify and help the memorizers. I’m not sure how to do that though.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      I think that the students could probably self-identify, actually. I don’t think that they are trying to get away with anything—they just do not know what else to do.

      Maybe I’ll ask them if they are memorizing on Monday. . . Bret

  2. Joss Ives Says:

    I have yet to try jigsawing in the way that you describe Bret. I like the idea that a student that might be reluctant to participate in larger group stuff would have to go to a group as an expert and explain things to 3 or so other people without the entire class’ eyes on that person.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      That’s exactly what I saw out of some students. I am thinking of one in particular that I almost never hear from in class, but she really took a leadership role in her two groups (which included some of the stronger, more vocal students). It is well worth trying. Bret

      • Joss Ives Says:

        I can think of a couple of places where this would work really well. It seems like a great way to run something similar to the “board meetings” that the modelers do where the students all share their problem solutions that they worked out on their whiteboards, but one that can work in a much larger class since the jigsaw would be creating a whole bunch of small “board meetings”.

      • bretbenesh Says:

        Yep—that sounds perfect!

  3. What oral exams taught me « Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] (especially since I had students view other students’ video solutions). […]

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