Contracts: It might be good for Advanced, and I think it has great potential for GED. I think that my Beginning and Intermediate students would think I’d lost my mind once (if) they understood what I was talking about and asking of them. It has to be time-intensive to meet with students and make individual contracts. I wonder how exactly teachers make it work.
Working in Groups: I like the list of concrete purposes, which includes generating lists, ranking lists, measuring knowledge, and obtaining feedback, warming up, and gathering questions. Renner also points out that 6-minute small-group chats can happen before, in the middle of, or after lectures. It hadn’t occurred to me to have groups meet in the middle of the lesson for a comprehension check-in.
The point about eye-contact was also well-taken. It’s extremely easy to forget about the basic experience your participants are having, right down to whether or not they can see each other. If they’re in small groups, for the love of Pete, have them sit in small circles!
I expected these chapters to be “softer” than they were. Ok, Contracts was a little soft, though the example provided was about as concrete as you can get. I’m still missing the “how” on top of everything else that teachers and learners have to accomplish.
I was pleased that the specific purposes of group work were listed instead of just blather about ‘fostering community.’ It definitely left me interested in reading what M.E. Shaw’s study of the literature had to say about group dynamics. It’s already on the syllabus, and I’m thinking it can probably happen in the current course!