The English Teacher

Working with Groups


Groups have to have adequate time to prepare to succeed. This time includes time for all to study the material and time for a modeling activity by the teacher. Then the teacher should give a grade to the group and to the individual. Otherwise the ĎA' students carry the work load to keep their semester grades up and everyone gets an equal grade.

Groups are chosen by a variety of methods. The most common methods are to either let students choose their own groups or to group them according to ability. Allowing students to choose their own groups may result in some people being left out and those who don't relate well to any group being left to work together. Grouping by ability so that there are some capable students in each group usually works well. If you choose the groups, you may unknowing place those students with past relationship problems together. You may then expect them to learn to work together, but be aware that you may not be able to leave the room with such groupings, or even put your attention somewhere else. You may also select the groups by drawing names, numbers, etc. Most students accept the fairness of a random selection, especially if a student draws the choices, but dysfunctional groups may result. In my experience, I wait until I know the class and the individual students before I begin group work and then I select the groups. And I keep a record of the groups and which groupings were most successful. However groups are chosen, don't allow members of one group to talk to members of another group or your group dynamics will be considerably less effective.

Groups where students each do work in their established skill areas may accomplish a good project, may demonstrate good collaborative skills, may gain recognition for the students, but may not accomplish much growth in students' abilities. A class which is totally project oriented may result in a student spending a semester without broadening academic or other desirable skills. An art student may only draw, a music student may only supply the sound, etc.

If the entire class can not work profitably doing group work, then cease that activity. If only one or two groups are not working profitably, then decide whether the other groups are benefitting enough to have the two unproductive groups continue in their actions.


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