Pick a Partner: Defining Roles for Group Success

In the last post about working in a group, we discussed ways to define rules and create boundaries so that students can work effectively. Today, we’ll wrap up this series by explaining how to teach students to take an active role in group work.

All students–those with hidden disabilities and their typically developing peers–benefit from clearly defined roles. We adults can relate to this. Imagine an office that lacked any defined roles…no defined sales force, project managers, product development team, or support staff. Who would want to work there?

Just as adults benefit from orientation when starting a new job, students need clear, specific instructions on how to be an effective member of a team. This takes time, and good planning. Remember, many students with hidden disabilities struggle with understanding how to interact with their peers appropriately. Therefore, teachers should plan time to explain each of the assigned roles.

A few tips to get you started:

Create roles that make sense for the assigned project. For a task in which students are asked to compare two people and create a poster about them (for a social studies or Bible class, for example), the following roles might work well:

(role cards from Prince George County Public Schools, MD)

Use visual supports. Remember that some students with disabilities have a difficult time understanding social concepts. Showing pictures of students engaged in group work can be helpful in conveying the expectations for various roles.
Practice, practice, practice. Allow students to do some role playing of both positive and negative interactions. Some students will be able to improvise, but others will need a script to follow.
Refer to the rules. Students need constant reminders of the rules governing group work. When specified roles are added, students will need to discuss how they can follow the rules while doing their group jobs.
Monitor and support. Remember…even adults have difficulty working cooperatively. Students will need supervision and support as they learn to collaborate effectively.

For the good of the group~

It’s April 2, which means Autism Awareness Day!  We’ll be talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders in the next few days. In the meantime, don’t miss Steve Grcevich’s series on Asperger’s Syndome. 

Also, you’ll want to register TODAY for and attend the Children’s Ministry Web Summit…FREE training, from the comfort of your home! Don’t miss it!


My Children Aren’t Perfect (and I’m dancing with joy )

 My kindergarten teacher had a special pen she used every day for grading papers. On one  end was a regular ball-point red pen, but on the other end was a smiley-face stamp. She would carry it around as we did our work, and if we got everything right, she would turn the pen around press that pretty stamp on our paper. But, if we made an error, she used the ball-point side to scrawl a sad-face.

The first time I saw this magical pen, I silently vowed to get all smiley faces the whole year-long. I achieved this goal until one winter afternoon, when I counted six snowmen instead of five…and a sad face was drawn quickly on my math paper. Eric P., who sat at my table gasped and said, “Ohhhhhhhhh, Katie got a sad face!” I gulped and willed the tears away.

And thus, my terrible tango with Perfect began.This push-me-pull-you dance always led to a short-lived exhilaration, often mixed with exhaustion and tears and sometimes, great emptiness. And still, I’d dust myself off and dance on with this fairly unrelenting and overpowering partner. This continued through undergraduate and graduate school, and into my teaching career. Maturity and time slowed the dance down a bit, though occasionally, Perfect would strike up a tempo that would push me again into a dizzying pursuit…

The perfect dinner party. The perfect thesis. The perfect house. The perfect lesson.

However, nothing could have prepared me for the Ultimate Promenade of Perfection into which I entered on March 21, 1994:


I was completely overwhelmed by the intensity of competition around raising children. Play groups felt more like beauty and talent competitions; discussions revolved around whose child was first in reaching milestones and accomplishing great feats. I felt an almost-primal need to protect my children from the clutches of the Perfect culture, only to discover its pervasiveness: a mainstream magazine recently dubbed parenting as “The Most Competitive Sport in America.”

The conversations I heard at dinner parties and school functions were heavily laced with mentions of Perfect. You know what I’m talking about…the kinds of statements about travel teams and talent scouts that, in my less-secure moments, make me want to thoroughly examine where I went wrong with my obviously-average offspring. Or throw up. Or both.

Still, when I come to my senses, I firmly resist strangling my kids with superlatives, knowing that they’ll never be the smartest or the fastest or the strongest and the best in everythingand that’s okay.

It’s taken me a long time to learn this, but Imperfect yields a bumper crop of gifts that Perfect could never offer:

 If my children were perfect, they would have no need to develop any of these qualities.  If they were perfect, they might miss out on the unique relationships that develop from cooperation and loyalty and mutual dependence.

If they were perfect, they’d have no need for me…

and they’d have no need for Him.

So, no thanks, Perfect. When it comes to parenting, I’ll sit this one out. I’ll watch my perfectly imperfect children, (who were born of a most-imperfect mother!) as they become just exactly who God planned them to be…

…and I’ll dance with Joy.

Weekly Wrap & Five Facts for Friday {2/24/12}

It’s been a little quiet here on the blog this week, because I’ve been enjoying a little getaway with my favorite guy (and husband!) Tom. We’ve had a great week of

r    e    l   a    x    a   t    i    o    n ~

and I’m so grateful.

While I’ve been away, though, lots of exciting things have been happening at Key Ministry, and I’ll tell you all about that SOON! In the meantime, you won’t want to miss Steve’s blog series with Steph Hubach.

This weekend, I’m excited to spend some quality time helping these folks get ready for Winter Formal:

And, I’m looking forward to seeing this member of the family, who will probably be crowned Winter Formal Queen…. She is very popular….

And now…

5 Facts for Friday:
1.I do not care for cutesy spellings of businesses, such as “Kountry Korner.” It’s not wise to build a company on the foundation of illiteracy.
2. Who determines which oils are the “essential oils?” Some of the oils might feel left out.
3. When I’m at the airport, I like knowing that every person there belongs to somebody.
4. While swimming this week, I lapped the guy in the lane next to me. I felt great about this until I realized he was about 147 years old with a strong resemblance to Abe Vigoda. And, with all due respect, I hope that I’m still swimming at that age, too.
5. Favorite part of going to the beach: hunting for shells and listening to the waves. Yours?

Happy Weekend, one and all!