Procedure Swap

“Write your procedure so that anyone in this class could follow it and collect data like you.” This was a common refrain of mine as students prepared procedures for various inquiry projects. I got a lot of head nods but some students seemed to quickly slap a few lines together and declare their procedure the best ever. Oh, the shock on their faces when we actually swapped procedures.

I did it over a two class period. The first day, one partner stayed with his/her project and the other moved on to perform the procedure of another group. The “owner” of the procedure read it out line by line for the newcomer to carry out. The catch was that only what was written could be read out loud. If something needed to be added or modified, it had to be done before the step could be completed. One pair finished immediately and a large smile was on the face of the boy who had performed the procedure.

“Finished already?”

“Yes, he told me to take out the plants, move one to the window and then clean up.”

“Did you collect any data?”

“Nope, it wasn’t in the procedure.” With those words, the other scientist simply shook his head. His group had left out many sections but the two returned to work and rounded out the procedure.

On the next day, I again switched up partners. However, this time no conversation was allowed. The “owner” of the procedure played the role of an observer and was expected to take notes on how the newcomer carried out the directions. At the end, the two sat down and discussed difficulties or places that were not completed as expected.

All in all, these two days were well worth it. Students worked with both written and verbal language skills – an important aspect with the ELL population in my classes. I enjoyed each debrief session with the students as they discussed what they liked about the procedures they performed and what could be improved upon.


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