Although I’m not preparing to start up my own classroom tomorrow, my thoughts still wander to what I “would do” and that brought me to reminiscing about The Quiet Game. Since being introduced to it in the early 90′s I’ve seen it in various settings and this morning when I googled “cooperative learning squares” I found other names for this game and the most common appears to be broken squares.

At the end of the game the completed puzzle pieces look like this:

If this interests you my full instructions are here:

http://mathforum.org/alejandre/quiet.game.html

And this URL results in the download of a MS Word document with these game pieces but also others — it’s great!

http://suse-step.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/bcstext.doc

With the game/activity or any like it I think it’s important to have the culminating conversation. I asked my students to consider “offer and receive” vs “grab and take” — how are they alike? how are they different?

It takes time and effort to introduce and establish a classroom environment with these characteristics:

* during large group discussions students
- take turns
- explain their own thinking
- listen to other’s thinking
- paraphrase others
- respecting differences of opinion
- justify their own reasoning
- revise their original conjectures

* during transitions from one activity to another students
- watch for signals from the teacher
- listen to directions
- pay attention to the amount of time and pace themselves
- follow classroom routines including know the designated place for handing in their work
- move about the room as directed and then as expected
- accept consequences when disciplined

I tried not to assume that students would know how to behave in my classroom. Playing the Quiet Game was one way to introduce some of these expectations. Each time students reacted differently but it gave me an idea of where they were and what I might need to provide to help them develop a sense of community in my class. Most important for me was the culminating discussion. What was the “real” point of the exercise?

What do you do to build a community atmosphere in your classroom?