The ASCD Blog features this short but useful article that describes an effective group work strategy for vocabulary learning.
The group was to determine the vocabulary words that they knew collectively and teach one another forgotten definitions. Only if none of the members recalled the word were they allowed to put it into the unknown column, which enforced the dependency on shared knowledge. Upon “Go,” they were actively filling out the cards and clarifying words to one another. It was ideal classroom chatter where students talk but about the content.
While reading it I was immediately struck by how flexible this simple strategy could be. Since the basic structure is that groups need to divide words into two columns: known and unknown, it could work with concepts as well. The idea that a word can’t be on the unknown list if even one member knows what it means and can explain it would have the same collaborative benefits if used with concepts. I could see this as a front loading/accessing background knowledge activity at the beginning of a history unit, for example or even math or science. It could then serve as an end of unit review.