While the StudyDo design was being developed in India, it became clear that the classroom conditions were such that teachers and students would both greatly benefit from taking advantage of collaborative learning techniques.
Classes with many students, who may be at different levels, and who have short lesson times are significantly enhanced when students can take advantage of their collective knowledge. Communication is, of course, enhanced, when students must work together to accomplish a task. Therefore, simple to use collaborative learning techniques are built into the StudyDo design and into Bridges.
For each story, article, or poem, teachers should allow students adequate time to first read the text on their own. Encourage students to mark words that are unfamiliar to them while reading.
When students don’t know a word, the teacher can stimulate more language production and encourage collaborative learning by encouraging students to ask other classmates if they know the unfamiliar word. When the text is the right level for the class, someone in the class will be able to share knowledge of the word with others.
In this way, the vocabulary of the entire class will be raised with little effort and teacher time, while the students are naturally encouraged to speak in the target language.
Finally, the teacher need only spend a moment teaching the one or two words that no student in the class knows.
Teachers can also encourage collaboration throughout lessons by having students “ask your friends” in order to practice language. Where a teacher in a traditional approach might ask the class a question and get an answer from a few students who raise their hands, students can, instead, ask each other. This is one good way to make better use of those where/what/who/when comprehension questions.
Allowing students to ask each other, “Who’s in the story?” produces a lot more language that the teacher asking and having one child raise a hand to answer. The technique only takes a moment as all students get to speak to each other simultaneously.
Another similar technique is “show your friend.” As activities continually focus on the text, a teacher can ask a question, then when students begin to answer, ask “where is that in the story,” “show me,” “show your friend.” Giving students even a moment to point out something in the text to a friend helps to keep students focused on language, helps reinforce the idea that information is found by reading, and helps to avoid students developing the habit of simply waiting for one child to answer a question so they can repeat the answer without understanding.
The StudyDo design builds all these techniques and more into the text to support teachers in developing these skills. Students may initially be surprised by the new freedom to work together, but our trials show children and young adults alike catching on easily in one lesson and quickly enjoying the practice as their language production increases naturally.