I borrowed some of the techniques from my experiences with scouting in my class room when I became a teacher. The most important thing I borrowed was working in groups. The first week of school I organized my classes into six groups of six. Once these groups were established they would function throughout the year.
I established the groups the first week of school. To do so, I called the role each day by asking a personal question so the students could reveal something about themselves. What was the most fun you had during vacation? Who was your first best friend? What do you do on snow days?
Then on Friday of that week I had the students choose three students they would like to be in a group with. I collected these papers and organized the groups as nearly as possible on the basis of their choices. I let them trade around where they could and then announced that these groups would stay the same throughout the rest of the year.
The groups were seated together in a double circle around the room. The blackboard was in front and my desk was in the back. With this arrangement, each group could easily put their seats in a circle when they needed to work together. Each group chose a chairman and a secretary. The chairman was responsible for obtaining assignments and the secretary for reporting attendance.
One of the most successful projects for the groups was making bulletin boards. Units of study were six weeks long. One group in each class did a bulletin board based on the subject that the class was studying that week. They had three days of class time to develop their project. Though I furnished basic materials for them to use, many of them supplemented the materials. We graded the project on (1) quality of the content material developed, (2) artistic elements involved and (3) group cooperation. We spent Fridays evaluating them leaving time for a weekly quiz.
The students became very involved with their bulletin boards. Even some "psychological dropouts" so labeled because they always came to class but never did anything, became involved. They had arranged their own group in all my classes and, at least one time, I caught one of these groups bringing their friends up to the classroom before school to see their handiwork.
To get an "A" on a bulletin board all three elements had to be an "A". I never had difficulty allowing the groups to work during class because an "A" on group cooperation was more important to the students than the other elements. "A's" all the way, however were quite elusive. The critique, which the students did, was tight.
I had one group whose students who were especially motivated to get an "A" on their bulletin board. They called themselves "The Hustlers" and that they were. It was an all girls group who were accustomed to getting good grades. They were so motivated that they had a meeting at night in one of their homes to develop the details of their plan. They even called me at home during their meeting to ask me some facts about the content.
They awaited the verdict of the class eagerly that Friday. Certainly they had their "A" on cooperative action. I determined this aspect, and they had gone far beyond the dimensions of any other group on that aspect.
Their art grade, according to the class, was also superb. They had created an enormous octopus that spread its evil tentacles into the far reaches of the bulletin board, scarcely leaving room for the skillful lettering that revealed the message. The class agreed that the group deserved an "A" for artistry.
When it came to content, however, someone found a mistake. There were too many eyes on the octopus. An octopus has only two eyes and the artists had an eye for each tentacle that could be seen. The Hustlers were devastated.
I continued the discussion of the content. It was a creative masterpiece. The octopus was a visualization of the negative effects of repressed emotions. Each tentacle was labeled to represent one of the mechanisms we try to use to avoid reality - rationalization, negativism, daydreaming, alcoholism, etc.
The class was ready to downgrade the bulletin board to a "B" when I intervened. "Is it not possible" I asked, "for something to be better than accurate? The technical error did nothing to interfere with the powerful message the bulletin board illustrates."
We discussed this for awhile. Someone suggested that all those eyes might be accepted as "poetic license" because they added to the emotion of fear being illustrated. After continued discussion, the class agreed on the "A". After all the purpose of the design was to identify the danger of using those escape mechanisms rather than to teach the physiology of the octopus.
The students realized that some things might be better than accurate. Perhaps the lesson we learned from that experience might be more important than what we learned about repressed emotions.