I volunteer in a Year 2/3/4 class at Pomare Primary. The teacher uses a workshop model for most of the day, particularly when teaching literacy and numeracy, and it runs like a well oiled machine! She starts with a mini lesson (students are sitting on the floor in front of her), then models part of the task. At this point, she either sends kids off to work (and she pulls small groups) or uses a strategy she calls “the doughnut”. Simply, it is a hybrid between a Socratic seminar and a think/pair/share…genius! Sometimes, she calls them back to the floor and uses the doughnut after students have been working on the task too.
Here’s how it works:
She has 16 students in class, and divides them into two equal groups with an inner circle and an outer circle. However, the inner circle sits so that they face the outer circle, creating pairs. Whaea (Maori for Mother or Miss) then asks them to share their thought process, their writing, their ideas, their math strategy, their questions, etc. with the person in front of them. She picks a circle (inner or outer) and gives them a time limit (usually about 3 minutes) to talk, then switches to the other circle. While they are talking, she is listening, joining in a discussion, or participating if someone needs a partner. When she calls “time”, her students stop and give her their attention (did I say “well oiled?”). Here’s the fun part, now she says, “I would like the outer circle to please move three spaces to the right (sometimes left)”. The kids of course expect this, and help each other figure out which way to go and when to stop, then she starts the timing/discussion again. This goes on for a few “rotations”, with either the inner or outer circle moving. In a 15 minute period of time students talk with 3 or 4 different partners. When I chatted with her after class she told me she differentiates for ability, for quiet/talkative, even for behavior, by changing the number of spaces, the direction, or the circle. She uses it for all content because it promotes plenty of opportunities for students to practice their speaking and listening skills (which is part of the New Zealand curriculum). She also asks students to share out, and then uses that to prompt the next rotation. When students verbally share with the whole group, she has them cite their source, or comment/add to their partner’s observations. The way in which she uses it depends on the content and her objective.
Think of the possibilities. Fun…interactive…formative, in one fell swoop! Brilliant!
Side note: She did want me to know that “the doughnut” takes lots patience and practice. She said she starts using this strategy from day one, and even after a month or two there are days it seems more chaotic than useful. (Um…I think that is called being a teacher!)
If anyone reading gives this strategy a go, I would love to hear about it. Cheers!