The classroom is abuzz with chatter as small groups of students discuss what they've observed in a film clip--one group focusing on setting and costumes, one on character development, one on plot--but I notice that one group is strangely silent.
"You need to be discussing what you've observed," I remind them.
"In a minute I'll be asking your group to report to the class, so be sure you've got something to report," I say.
They just sit. They're not even looking at each other. One of them leafs through the textbook while another bounces a tennis ball on the desk.
Time is up. The class needs to move on. What do I do?
The other groups provides plenty of fodder for class discussion, but that one silent group offers essentially nothing. I ask leading questions that end up being answered by members of other groups, but the silent group maintains its silence throughout the class.
After class I ask one of the silent group's members what the problem was. "I don't know," she shrugs; "Nobody wanted to talk."
From my perspective, it didn't look like anyone in that group even tried to talk. What is the problem here?
I suppose it's possible that the silent group contained only students who hadn't done the reading, but here's the thing: they could have answered the question without having done the reading because they were responding to a film clip I had just shown them.
So there's something wrong here but I don't know what it is. Maybe those four students have some history with each other (already?), or maybe they thought I wouldn't notice that they weren't doing the work. I don't know.
What about next time? It's a small class, so in future I may have to arrange group work so the silent ones don't all end up in the same group. What I'd really like, though, is a way to make them talk.