The English Playbook

If you were to look up the word “playbook” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, you would find the following definition: “a book that contains descriptions of the different offensive and defensive plays that are used by a team” ( So, what does a playbook have to do with a CoLab?

In the above definition, I find that the most fascinating word is “team.” The CoLab fosters an environment in which each individual student is asked to work with his/her peers in order to achieve a common goal. Therefore, this year, I have constructed a playbook, a binder containing numerous “plays” in which the furniture is stationed in different positions.

I am interested in investigating the following research question: by the end of the year, will 6th grade students be able to position the furniture in a way that best fosters their individual learning styles? Throughout the year, I will gauge their level of self-understanding by collecting data based on the level of their engagement with the material, their reflective processes during discussions and in their writing, and academic improvement.

Prior to walking into class each day, my students wait for me to greet them right outside the door. When I open the door, I inform them what “play” I am calling for that day. Once I tell them the play, they enter the room, look into the playbook, and organize the furniture according to the specific layout.


This play, “Team-Up,” is called when students are working in small groups in order to achieve a common goal.
A group of 6th grade boys who are working together to familiarize themselves with Wordly Wise words.
A group of 7th grade boys working together to analyze a short story.

A specific play is called depending on the lesson I am teaching, as well as the goals I have for each class. In the play called “Office Space,” students create four offices, each containing a different activity. My students know that when I say, “switch,” they must rotate to the next office and continue their learning in a completely different way.

For example, the play “Office Space” was called during a review day for a Wordly Wise test that my students were taking the following day. The room was split into four offices, with each office participating in a different review activity: Quizlet (iPad app) notecards and games, charades with the vocabulary words, Explain Everything (iPad app) comic using the vocabulary words, and a shared Google Doc (iPad app) to write a script with the vocabulary words.

This play, “Office Space,” is called when students are working on different tasks simultaneously. 
“Office Space” in action. Sixth grade students working on their script in a shared Google Doc.
“Office Space” in action. Sixth grade students working on their Explain Everything comic.

The goal of the playbook is for students to inherently understand how they learn best. By the end of the year, I hope that when I tell my students the lesson of the day, they will be able to move the furniture to best suit the lesson as well as their individual educational needs.


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