Cooperative Learning Strategies
Module Five

In this module you will learn a cooperative structure called Pyramid. This structure is a nice extension to collaborative pair activities.

Before you proceed with this lesson, please take time to reflect on your experience with last module's activity and email Jerry Peters at gpeters@twcny.rr.com with a brief description of the activity you did with your students, how it went, and any questions you need answered. You might want to attach an electronic copy of the activity to the email.

The main idea of Pyramid is to have the learners do a collaborative activity in very small groups such as pairs, and then do the same or a similar collaborative activity in larger groups formed by combining two or three of the very small groups.

An excellent place to use a pyramid is immediately after you have explained some new content to the students. At this point you should give them an activity that requires them to work with the new content collaboratively and in a way different from the way you just presented it to them. Having students work in collaborative pairs to create a graphic organizer of the new content is an excellent way to provide each student with the opportunity to organize the new content in a way that fits his/her prior knowledge.

When the pairs are done with their first graphic organizer, join two or three pairs together into a larger group. Instruct each of the larger groups to create a new graphic organizer of the same content using the first graphic organizers they created. It is important that the new graphic organizer not be exactly the same as any of the first ones. Their task is not to choose which organizer is best, but rather to create a new one using the structures and ideas contained in the first ones. This requires the learners to think through the new content again and further refine its organization. If possible, this second round of organizers should be written on the blackboard, overhead transparencies, or newsprint so they can be viewed for a whole class discussion. This discussion allows you the opportunity to correct any errors that may have crept into the students' processing of the content.

Recent studies have shown that activities that have students compare and contrast concepts and/or procedures are among the most effective in helping learners organize and store new knowledge, especially content pieces that are often confused, such as area and perimeter in math. A partially completed organizer comparing and contrasting the concepts of area and perimeter appears below:

Concept #1: Perimeter of our classroom floor Concept #2: Area of our classroom floor

How are they alike?

1. have to measure to get them

2. each one has a formula

3. (can you think of another way they are alike?)

4.

5.


How are they different?

Concept #1 feature........with regard to......Concept #2 feature


1. ______feet_____________ ____units_______ ____Square feet___



2. ____Add_______________ ____operation used_ ____Multiply_____



3. __P = s1 + s2 + s3 + s4____ ____formula______ ____A = l x w____



4. how much molding to buy__ how it is used_______ how much rug to buy



5. _______________________ __________________ ________________

It is very important that the students identify the "with regards to" part of the organizer so the differences are connected to a label in their memories. The brain stores knowledge by how it is similar to other items, but it retrieves items by how they are different from other items. You may have to model this type of organizer for your students the first time you use it. If you use a compare/contrast organizer frequently, your students will soon learn what is expected of them.

Activity

As an activity for this module, please use a Pyramid activity as described above at least once. You are encouraged to also include some compare/contrast activities into your lessons, particularly with the Pyramid activity.