Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Speed Dating is Totally a Better Option

I always loved doing “jig-saw” activities with my students. You know, jig-saw projects! Where kids get in small groups and they all take a piece of info (or a section of the chapter)  and they learn that one topic or page and they teach it to the class. They loved working in small groups on specific topics.

I loved it, too ... until we did an assessment afterwards.  (cue the sound effect: dun dun DUNNNN)

And then I realized that each group learned the stuff they presented REALLY well -- but must have tuned out their peers’ presentations. Because they didn’t learn a darn thing from the other groups.


This was always a super frustrating conundrum. The kids learned their topic deeply and did “okay” on their presentations (I know plenty of kids don’t enjoy presenting). The activity was focused and engaging. But no matter what I did --nothing seemed to help.

And I tried ...
  1. making handouts for taking notes from the other groups
  2. better structuring the presentations to make more sense
  3. giving better rubrics
  4. giving “notetaking” points
  5. giving a quiz

But nope. None of these adjustments helped.

My kids really struggled to present well. And they REALLY struggled to learn from each other.

So I put the idea on the shelf for a few years until I came across this gem.

Speed dating ... as a learning strategy!

Speed dating is totally an option (for your class. I don’t pretend to know anything about your personal life ...)

No, I’m serious! Stop laughing!! (Feel free to change the activity name so your kids don’t get the giggles too much! It’s pretty similar to AVID’s One-Minute Expert strategy)

Here’s how it works.
  1. Put students in pairs.
  2. Give each pair of kids a different chunk of information -- maybe a different historical reformer or a section of the chapter or a philosopher or whatever.
  3. Give the kids structure to what you want them to know about the topic (such as: main idea + 2 details OR the reformer’s basic ideas OR five most important facts OR whatever)
  4. Give the pairs time to read the info and process it together and write down whatever you  want them to write down with the structure from #3
  5. Then, arrange your classroom in two concentric circles -- an inside circle facing outward and an outside circle facing inward --  so that the kids can sit with the two partners facing each other. *You might want to do this before class, depending on the rest of your class agenda for the day.
  6. The kids are about to teach each other, one-on-one, face-to-face, like speed dating. Maybe we should call it speed teaching? Have the two partners “practice” together what they’re going to say to the others.
  7. Now -- make sure you set effective logistics -- no looking at each others’ notes (otherwise, it’s speed-copying), kids DO have to take their own notes, and they have thirty seconds or one minute (for example) for each partner to speak. I suggest using a timer to keep it speedy. Hence the SPEED part of the speed dating.
  8. Have all of the kids in the outer circle move one seat clockwise. Now, each kid is speaking to a kid who IS NOT her original partner.
  9. Have each Inside-Circle-kid take his thirty seconds or one minute and teach the other about his topic. When the timer rings, have each Outside-Circle-Kid take thirty seconds or one minute to teach her topic.
  10. When the timer rings again, have the outside circle move one more seat clockwise. Now each kid has a  NEW partner! Have them repeat the part where they each get a certain amount of time to teach each other. Keep using the timer.
  11. Repeat this process until every kid has learned each part.

This has a couple of advantages. First, all the kids are accountable. No one gets to hide behind his or her group. Second, the kids become experts in a particular area, so they are confident about their content (like in the jig saw). Third, kids are more engaged in the learning of the OTHER parts of the content because they can’t “tune out” face to face. Finally, it has decent structured movement and collaboration.

I wouldn’t try this for the first time with my wild class. I’d try it with my easier group so I could work out any kinks before I tried it with that crazy period.

What do you think? Are you up for “Speed Dating”? Have you tried it before? If you need tips or ideas, let me know! As always, I love to hear from you! Email me

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