Hosting Conversations about Questions that Matter
I am going to implement World Cafe in my high school math classes next year, and am hoping their are people in the online community who have advice /experience for me. I have attached the first draft of the handout I will be giving students.
I am still not exactly sure what World Cafe looks like in a math classroom. My first though is that each round students are given one problem to work on as a group. Then based on what round it is, there would be a different theme for them to discuss. For instant, the first rounds theme would be "solution method", and they would need to discuss the proper solution method, and be able to describe that solution method in words. The second round would have a theme of "common mistake", so after they had finished working the problem, they would need to discuss and record what the common mistakes are for that problem. The third rounds theme would be "key points".
I would have the students turn in a piece of paper with the final conclusions of their groups, and wells as the conclusions of the previous groups that were described to them by the host. All work would be done on the table cloth /construction paper, and only final draft work would be turned in.
Those are some of my initial ideas.
You have a great framework here for using World Café in an instructional setting. For the first round, will students ever be exposed to problems that could have multiple solution methods? If so, the Café protocol will allow students to offer and consider a number of ways to solve a given problem, sometimes uncovering a creative way not consider at first. I like how you've invited students to use the table covering as scratch paper, a wonderful way to see their thinking.
As a proponent of incorporating global perspectives in learning & teaching, I wonder how your Café framework could have students use math in finding possible solutions to an international issue or concern (collecting & distributing food to those living in area of famine).
You may also want to consider having students select the table hosts. It provides them with opportunities for leadership and encourages an authentic student voice.
I'd like to share this concept with teachers and school leaders next week at Asia Society's International Studies Schools Network Summer Institute in Washington, DC. Let me know if that's OK.
There definitely are problems that have multiple solution methods. I choose the three themes specifically because they are an aspect of every math problem, and thus it can be used at any point in the curriculum. But I like challenging students to find different solution methods. That can be built into the first theme, so it's not only "describe in words the solution method", but also "describe a solution method for this problem - did you discover more than one solution method in your group?"
I will think about getting more creative about the problems. There could be a greater cause built into it, and I think water/food distribution is something to look at. Again, my initial goal was a World Cafe that could be easily implemented anywhere in the math curriculum - Regardless of the standard being worked on, if the students are struggling to learn it, you can do a World Cafe activity and focus in on the problem. But your point about global perspectives has expanded that idea for me. I think moving forward - having specific World Cafe problems of this style should be a goal for me, but they can be tricky to write.
Great feedback on letting students choose the host, I will definitely try that first and see how it works. The only issue I see is that student engagement can be a scary thing in math, and I would not be surprised if no one wants to be the host, and so I end up assigning them anyway.
Please do share it, I want as much input as possible to help design something that will work for any math instructor.
Thus far I haven't implemented it because of summer. But I have a couple of them planned for September... I keep the community updated.
The 1st time around - Reflection.
I have done two versions of World Cafe in my classes. This comment is about the first time.
I followed my original handout (World Cafe Handout.pdf), and had the students create their own World Cafe Menu’s, which was turned into me for a grade.
Each round had a different theme the students needed to address. The different themes of each round had the students confused, because I had not anticipated the difficulty in them discussing key points - “What’s a key point?”. If a teacher wants to use this format, then they need to front-load the World Cafe with lesson’s on how to come up with key points, what it means to be a ‘common mistake’, and what is meant by a ‘solution method’.
The World Cafe menu itself was confusing the first time through, because it was very open-ended. I told them to fold a blank piece of paper into a menu, and clearly label each round. That was about it. I felt the quality was not very good, because the instructions were not clear. The students either need example menu’s passed out, or they would need to do the World Cafe a couple times before they start creating quality menu’s from scratch.
The 2nd time around - Reflection.
My goal this time was to strip the activity down to its most basic form. This time I provided a menu template (WorldCafeMenu.pdf). This template helped provide more structure, and the turned in work looked a lot better. I told the students I would give extra credit for my favorite menus, which provided students with motivation to add their own creativity.
I got rid of the idea of each round have a different theme. There were no round themes. The students just needed to work the problems out on the table cloth, and then transfer the final work onto the menu.
I also did not provide markers this time. They just used their own pens and pencils. This is because my markers were running out. They still doodled, but not as much as they did when there were markers. Not having markers seemed to keep them a bit more on task with the math.
I still have not used a table host. Each round, every student must relocate.
A surprising success for me was the part of the menu where they need to write their group members names. I required it all in their writing - no passing around your menu for people to sign. You ask them their name, you write it down. It got students talking to each other, and worked well to break the ice when they were with students they were unfamiliar with.
The next step for me is to find math problems with social significance. I have only used standard math questions thus far.