Here's a simple idea I came up with but never got to use in the classroom myself.
Warning: Since I didn't use it, I wasn't able to student-test it and work out any unforeseen bugs.
Anyway, I thought it might make sense to offer students the option of placing their tiles in the rectangle as a way to indicate their willingness to tutor anyone still working on the assignment.
If you take a look at this idea from a stuggling student's point-of-view, you'll see how beneficial this simple variation could be.
Imagine Calvin is working on his social studies assignment but not sure how to do a part of it. He sees Mr. Morris is already busy helping a couple of other students. He also sees the timer on the wall and realizes the clock is tickin'.
He suddenly remembers the new idea about student tutors and looks at the white board where the tiles are being displayed. He scans the "tutor box" and sees that his buddy, Tony (25), is done with the assignment and is willing to help another student.
Calvin beckons Tony over to his desk and gets some much-need assistance.
Just a quick reminder that "tutoring is not doing." This is something my students all understood. The tutor doesn't do the work for the student. The tutor merely guides the student so that he can not only do the work himself but also understand what's he's doing.
Here's the same general concept--providing assistance to students in need--but done in reverse.
In both of these simple strategies, we see that the responsibility of problem-solving is placed on the student. Either the student is seeking a tutor based upon the tiles in the "Tutor Box" or he's placing his own tile in the "I could use some help" space. Regardless of which method is used, each one helps to further the all-important classroom culture of students being independent and self-reliant.
And although in this case self-reliance is tempered slightly by the need for someone's assistance, it still required that the student in need took the first step at getting help. That's far better, in my book, than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself because you can't do something on your own. Or, more predictably, using the "I didn't know what to do" excuse as a reason for why the assignment wasn't completed on time.