Do you use collaborative/cooperative groups in the classroom? If so, here’s a fantastic idea I recently saw science teachers Marilyn Dombrowski and Kristin Combs using at Furness High School in Philadelphia:
Give each group two plastic cups (16 oz.), one green and one red, and advise them to keep one inside the other in the center of their table (or adjoining desks), with the red one on the outside when a group needs your help and the green on the outside when it doesn’t.
I love this idea for a couple reasons. First, it allows you to see from anywhere in the room which groups need help at any given time. And second, it establishes in a concrete way a key to getting the full benefit of group work: the teacher only helping groups—not individuals—and only when all students in a group are stuck (and have exhausted all other resources). It might even prevent the kind of response I got when I first introduced groups and insisted students ask a classmate for help: “But you’re the teacher. She’s not getting paid.”