Norwich High School for Girls; A tailored workshop lesson plan#3

(continued from a previous post, this is a detailing of a 60-minute  workshop presented at Norwich High School for Girls June 9, 2014).

Stage 2: Read materials, take notes, prepare oral summary

 Time: 5 minutes, individual reading of materials. 

 Level: Theme-based 3-4 member teams.


After using ladders to slice up “best friends” in order to sit them down in the heterogeneous teams we are looking for in Cooperative Learning,  students are now ready to engage the written  material. Especially with a group of students mixed from several classes, a lot of chit-chat can be cut right out by positioning strangers in the same teams. Details in previous post.

The following stage is a good example of how individual reading and using suitable reading  and note-taking  techniques seamlessly fused into CLIPs* suddenly become highly relevant and urgent to students. The awareness that one has only five minutes to prepare an oral presentation is a strong motivation for engaging the material – especially as they were made aware that all information would be lost to the whole class if they were not focused.


Materials were hand-picked by myself and consisted of interviews, scholarly research papers, public statements and news articles from a wide variety of sources and representing conflicting viewpoints. While the choices reflected my four years at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies in Copenhagen University, any materials that the teacher has available – or indeed that the students find as homework – actually suffice.  

Each team was responsible for one of six aspects of the Syrian conflict that the client and I had decided on in our initial meeting.  Themes comprised:

  • 01: International Players and Politics
  • 02: Traditional Islamic Education
  • 03: Modern Education in the Middle East
  • 04: Syria – history, education, sects and politics
  • 05: Gender Issues
  • 06: Education in War

Cooperative Learning and the sticky matter of differentiation

In order to achieve differentiation, the materials were of varying levels. Given a very high level throughout, even a “good”  Guardian newspaper article is easier to read than any research paper from Cambridge.  Note that one of the stated lesson aims was to present the students with challenging materials to facilitate some of the tense and stressing experience of wartime diplomacy.

As students in each team were allowed to pick out from a batch of material themselves, they could go for what suited them. But more importantly, the constant negotiation in Cooperative Learning allows students to “get what they get” on their own terms. Yet check against other understandings in the cross-class teams with peers creates a form of “self-regulating” differentiation impossible to achieve in open class teacher feedback.

When Cooperative Learning is employed on a regular basis, students naturally train awareness of their own learning process in a very teacher-independent way.

“Improved summary, (…) note-taking skills (and) communication skills”

–  Workshop participant



It’s always a good idea to make sure there is extra material available, so if one student gets completely bogged down or if one is particularly fast, there is always an alternative to keep her occupied. Also, making students aware of the importance of skimming and scanning, rather than attempting to engage in extensive reading.

Extensive reading and Cooperative Learning is another ball-game altogether. A simply way is to employ one of the above forms of Expert Jigsaw a couple of times, so they know the level of responsibility they face, and then let them prepare the material at home. Arriving in class, they form expert teams and simply present findings as exemplified in stage three, up in the next post on Stage 3: Present oral summary in teams.

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*) CLIP: Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern.


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