A Community of Innovative Educators

What do you get when teachers from New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Bronx sit at the same table? If you are expecting a punchline, we are sorry to disappoint. This is exactly what we saw last year during Google Teachers’ Lounge – teachers from diverse settings coming together to solve classroom challenges and make new connections.

The Bronx teacher spoke about her challenges in supporting an English Language Learner who struggled to keep up during lessons. Before long, her colleagues from across town jumped in to help and hatched an innovative idea. In order to better support her student, the teacher could dictate her lessons directly into a Google Doc. In this way, the student could see the words come to life on the page, all the while continuing to participate in the lesson. “Amazing things happen when teachers have the opportunity to share ideas like this!” said the New Jersey teacher.

Google Teachers Lounge

Last year, teachers from across the city gathered for Google Teachers’ Lounge to share how they effectively use technology in the classroom.

A space for teachers:

We created Google Teachers’ Lounge last year, in hopes that teachers would want to come out and collaborate after their busy school days.  As it turned out, interest in all six of our events exceeded capacity. We were continuously amazed to see how energized teachers were, even after a long day of teaching. These events made us realize that teachers needed spaces like this to learn, connect, unwind and just have fun. We were also excited to give teachers in our client schools the opportunity to meet each other (and debate who was the best Educate coach). It was always a goal of ours to create a community of educators, and last year proved teachers need these spaces.

This year, we are excited to launch several new initiatives to continue to grow our community of innovative educators so that together we can maximize our impact on student success. This community will be called the Innovative Teaching Co-op and will provide teachers with the support they need to invigorate their instruction with new ideas and best serve their students.

Here’s how you can join the community:

  1. Join the Innovative Teaching Co-op Facebook Group – Join us on Facebook to discuss challenges and successes, or just talk about your day. Meet other teachers virtually, grow your network, and get invited to exclusive events.
  2. Subscribe to the Innovative Teaching Newsletter – Once a month, you will receive an email with recent Educate blogs on instructional best practices, tips for leveraging tech in your class, and upcoming professional development opportunities.
  3. The Innovative Teaching Co-op Monthly Meetup – Every month starting in November, we will be traveling to exciting spaces in NYC. We will honor what worked best in our previous events – a laid-back atmosphere, informal learning, food/drink, and always leaving with a next step for your classroom.

The members of Educate LLC team are rolling up our sleeves to bring this community to you because it is our greatest privilege to work with teachers in our schools, and as former teachers ourselves, we know how challenging this profession can be. Let’s not do it alone. Let’s work together, and be together, so that together we can bring the greatest success to our students.

 

5 Ways to Build Better Student Groups

Student group work is an integral part of 21st-century classrooms, but figuring out the most effective way to distribute your class can be perplexing. Make this most of this classroom opportunity and try new ways of matching students with these five strategic ways to build meaningful student groups:

Student groups will allow more peer collaboration in the classroom.

“Most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth.” – Sir Ken Robinson

Readiness Student Groups

Use student achievement data to cluster students in a variety of ways. Heterogeneous groupings allow you to pair students who have already mastered the content with those who could benefit from peer coaching. Homogeneous groupings are great for differentiation because they allow teachers to push the high performers with more advanced work while also freeing up more class time for groups that need more time with the teacher while others work independently. Building these groups can be as simple as using a spreadsheet to sort scores from a recent assessment and grouping students accordingly.  

Style Student Groups 

We know that every student learns differently so have your class take a learning styles inventory survey and group students based on the results. You can design unique learning experiences for auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning groups. For example, an elementary math lesson on illustrating fractions could have one group of visual learners drawing while another group of tactile students manipulating tangram shapes.

Interest Student Groups

Allow students to opt into areas of interest. This approach is especially effective for literature circle as it allows students to self-select books or activities that match their passions. Students in interest groups are likely to be highly invested in the content, and self-selection can add an additional level of student ownership. Crafting a student survey (or copying this survey we made using Google Forms) at the start of the school year can be a great way to begin planning for interest based groups. 

Characteristic Student Groups 

Consider the many other identifying characteristics of your students, and you might come up with some creative new classroom groups. You can use any variable from date of birth to favorite color and everything in between. For example, you might kick off the year by grouping students based on their previous homeroom teacher or simply their favorite ice cream flavor.

Random Student Groups

While methodological grouping is an effective way to focus learning experiences, sometimes it is fun to build totally random groups so students get a chance to interact with different peers. Apps like Team Shake and Class Dojo’s Group Maker allow teachers to create randomized groups of any size almost instantly (and can help you manage those groups too).  

 

There are many ways to facilitate peer learning by creating small groups of students. Whatever method you try, be sure to monitor student performance to understand which groupings are most effective. Don’t be afraid to try new groups too! Change will keep your group time feeling fresh and exciting.


Teachers, what other ways do you group your students? What approach leads to the most student success? Let us know in the comments!