By Zoe Shepherd
I am a much happier soul when I am working with others. Sharing my thoughts and listening to the much better ideas other people have. At the right time it can be an unbelievably useful teaching strategy but group work still scares people. Do not be afraid – get involved.
Group work can be the most rewarding yet stressful of activities for teachers and students alike. Teachers can worry about classroom management and the activity being ‘worth it’. Students can be concerned about who they will work with and what they will be asked to do. As a Drama teacher this is my bread and butter, the most essential part of my planning to ensure the best outcomes for my students. Over the years I have observed a lot of lessons in all subject areas and developed my own practice so that I do the right thing at the right time. So here are a few of my top tips for group work.
- Until you are confident that you know and understand the class do not let them choose who they work with. You can destroy the self-esteem of the student who is left out.
- Decide what you want out of the task and then select the groups so that you get the outcome you want.
- Allocate roles and expect every child to play an active part in the group task.
- Use different methods to put students into groups so that it is interesting – jigsaws, lolly sticks, birthdays, numbers, ability, gender.
- Think about it and don’t leave it to the last minute to make your decisions.
This is what other Beaumont staff have to say:
Ed Panting (PE): “I try to use coaches / experts to lead small groups for reinforcement of basic skills. For example working in groups of 4-6 I might use a basketball team player to ‘coach/teach’ the rest of the group to lay the ball up, that team then goes into game play against the other groups. The team stay together for the activity unit so the leader has time to develop his team. By adding in the competitive element I find the leaders really invest in their team because the better they teach them the more likely they are to win in the games. Everyone benefits; bottom end get more direct feedback and coaching than if it just came from one source so tend to make better progress; top end are reinforcing and enriching their knowledge by delivering the information in a way that less able pupils can access. It also develops skills for success and general social skills.”
Susan Kent (Geography): “Give them a large piece of sugar paper to make notes on during their discussion, and a different coloured pen each to ensure everyone takes part by the end of the discussion the sugar paper must have every colour pen on it. If possible have your seating plan arranged in a way that means group working is easy ie. four in the same row/behind in front of each other which means mixed ability/boy & girl mix is easy to do.”
Eva Janoskova (English): “Have clear job descriptions (scribe, spokesperson, researcher etc.). Appoint spies who jot down the best ideas from each group.”
Liz Cleverley (PSHE and Maths): “Make it clear if there are defined roles so the group can use the strengths of individuals. Use a visual countdown timer – if they get lost in a task they can lose track of time. Mix the genders and also SEND and gifted students.”