Corner collaboration is a cooperative learning strategy that builds support for students of all levels and gives immediate feedback. It is active learning.
What Is Corner Collaboration?
This is a variation of the 4 corners teaching strategy. In that version, students are assigned to a corner of the classroom to discuss/answer questions. The questions can be procedures on how-to, opinions on controversial topics, thoughts about reading passages or steps in solving math problems. I have adapted this strategy for math class.
In my version, students are in home groups (of three or four) and are assigned some problems to practice. Each of the home group members have a different set of problems.
They are helping each other with rules, vocabulary, procedures and steps. They have different problems, so home groups are general help. Home groups are the familiar groups students use on a regular basis. They offer support and in the case of English Language Learners they also offer access to some more difficult language or vocabulary concepts.
When some time has passed and most students have some answers to the problems assigned, students go to the corners as indicated on their worksheet. The members of the Corner Groups have the same problems. This gives students a chance to discuss the problems, compare answers and correct errors.
After some time has passed, students return to their home groups. There is typically some discussion when they return home and time is allowed for that discussion. Then the teacher asks questions of the home groups.
Such questions could be “What misconception was discussed in your corner group”. “Where there any common errors noticed”. “Which type of problems were the most difficult to solve”.
Note that the questions are not student specific. They are about how the discussion went, their observations about all the answers, their thoughts on what types of errors occurred. This helps students to be objective about the process and not self-conscious about their own learning.
How to Get Started
I introduce the idea of separating from their home group and regrouping to the corner early in the year. I ask multiple choice questions with 4 answers and students move to the corner of their answer. This idea is useful for beginning the lesson or ending as well.
I notice that students who are unsure move with the crowd. This is an important observation because these students may lack confidence. Make sure these students are in groups where they are not overwhelmed by others.
How to Implement
The only preparation is to make the copies and label the corners. If you are going to use this strategy on a regular basis, put the corner labels in sheet protectors or laminate.
The first time you use this strategy, explain to students they will work on their problem set in their home group first to get help. When they have finished their work, they will change groups to discuss their work. If this is not made clear, students will assume they have unlimited time to finish the problem set.
The strategy requires 4 versions of a worksheet. The problems need to be similar in type, but not with the same answer. Most groups are composed of 3 or 4 students. If your groups have 5 or 6, you would need that many unique worksheets.
Make sure the worksheets are labeled with a letter or symbol so it is clear which version the student receives. Pass out the worksheets to the home group.
The first thing students will notice is that they problems are different. This ensures that students talk about math, relationships, patterns and the big ideas, rather than the specific answer.
Have a signal so student know when time is up. It can be a bell, a timer or just a countdown. Monitor students as they are working so it is obvious when most students are finished. when time is up, have students move to the corner that matches the letter or symbol on their worksheet.
In the corner groups, allow some time for students to talk, compare answers and discuss errors. Monitor discussions for possible reteaching notes. If students make changes to their work, ask them to use a colored pencil so they know how their answer changed. The corner group time is usually an average of 10 minutes.
Use a signal to tell students to return to home groups. End the activity by asking some questions about errors and misconceptions.
After discussion, provide the answers to the problems so students know if they are correct. Display the answers using the projector or post the answers on the board. It is important that students know before they leave the classroom if their answer are right.
Why I love This Strategy
- It is easy to implement. All that is required is sets of problems for the students.
- Students are supported as they are working. They have the comfort of their home group and then they can get additional support with the corner group.
- Students get immediate feedback. The corner group has the same set of problems, so comparing answers is helpful. Keep in mind that students may ALL have the same misconception and just because they have the same answer doesn’t mean they are all correct. This does not happen often, but it can occur.
- Feedback for the teacher. The questions asked of the groups provide valuable information for the teacher. It is helpful to let the students know their answers are helping future lessons, not a critique of how they have learned.
- Differentiation is easy. Just give all the stronger students a more difficult version of the worksheet. Their conversations will be deeper and they will have more of a challenge.
Tips for Success
- Depending on your class, be strategic when distributing the worksheets. Don’t give all the struggling learners the same version.
- You can use this for a whole period or just part of the period. Just vary the number of problems to make the time shorter. I have used 4 problems on a worksheet as a practice when learning a new skill.
- It can form the immediate practice when learning new skills because students will receive that important feedback. It addresses misconceptions early and allows for reteaching.
- Don’t skip reflecting at the end of the activity. This provides an opportunity for students to think about their own learning, compare their learning with others and provide feedback on what more they need to learn.
- Make sure the answers are provided at the end. I skipped this one day and the next day the students were still asking about the answers, so I know they were thinking about this.
I hope you try this strategy in your math class this week to see for yourself how engaging this collaborative activity can be. If you try it, let me know how it goes by commenting or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.