Think fast! Interaction in an Instant is a tool that can get students talking and learning with one another. All you need to do is be on the alert for the right moment to jump in.
We identified seven ways to use Interaction in an Instant in Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, and Interaction in an Instant may be the least formal. Sometimes a simple opportunity to chat (within guidelines you’ll provide) is enough to generate energy in the classroom and launch students into a learning-by-talking process with many different peers, not just those they sit near or normally socialize with. In addition to aiding student learning of content, Interaction in an Instant increases the sense of community in your classroom. Here’s a free excerpt from Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works containing Interaction in an Instant.
As noted in McREL’s original Classroom Instruction That Works meta-analysis, cooperative learning has a solid research base as an effective teaching strategy, with an effect size of .73 (equivalent to a percentile gain of 27 points). It’s tough to beat cooperative learning as a way for students to be engaged in simultaneously learning content and the collaborative skills that create workplace success, so it’s worth our while as educators to learn to do it well.
Of the seven techniques we identified in Interaction in an Instant, consider starting with Mix-Pair-Share because it’s particularly quick, easy, and enjoyable to implement. Originally described by Kagan & Kagan, Mix-Pair-Share uses movement and sociability to aid the process of acquiring new information. Ask the class a question like you normally would but instead of waiting for a hand to go up, immediately call out, “Mix!” Everyone gets up and circulates until you call out, “Pair!” Students team up with whoever’s closest and share their responses.
Just like that, you’ve transformed what could have been a humdrum Q-and-A into an engaging, fun exercise in collaboration. Your task now is to monitor the conversations for use of the academic language your lesson aims to impart. After, say, three consecutive mixes, everyone returns to their own seat with a much greater understanding of the topic than they started with—certainly greater than they could have achieved through note-taking alone. The entire process I’ve just described should take no more than five minutes.
The other six Interaction in an Instant techniques are variations on the theme: With teacher guidance, students come together to talk through the subject matter, and wind up teaching themselves and each other more than you could have taught them singlehandedly. As I like to say, the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning … and that means the teacher shouldn’t be the only one talking!
Cheryl Abla is a former teacher who now, with McREL, leads professional learning and coaching for K–12 educators on research-based strategies for effective instruction, use of classroom technology, English language acquisition, and classroom culture and climate. She’s a co-author of Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, which provides easy-to-use tools and learning activities to help teachers get CITW strategies into the classroom on a daily basis. Here’s a free excerpt containing Interaction in an Instant.