“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

We have all been a part of that group in an English lesson before. Do you recall that group project where one person takes the lead, leading some members to conclude their ideas are unwelcome, while a select few ride the others’ coattails?

That must be a thing of the past IF you can divide your class into some of the suggestions offered here.  This is the power of inclusivity – the power of group work where WE all participate and enjoy the benefits.

GROUP WORK @ HIGH SCHOOL, when properly structured and monitored, can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills
  • Tackle more complex problems than they could on their own
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities
  • Share diverse perspectives
  • Pool knowledge and skills
  • Hold one another (and be held) accountable

It is essential to note that while the potential learning benefits of group work are significant, simply assigning group work is no guarantee that these goals will be achieved so . . .

From the start . . .

Discuss major goals of group work with students early and keep on reminding them the key tenets of being involved in a discussion. The teacher and class need to set goals for discussions, brainstorm criteria for what makes a discussion interesting and useful.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, cloud, sky, baby, closeup and outdoorCome up with questions that will help the group assess the quality and process of small and large group discussions.

AMONG THE QUESTIONS that might be useful for group assessments include:

  1. Did each group member have an adequate opportunity to speak?
  2. Did each person feel that his or her comments were heard and respected, even if challenged?
  3. Did students hear anything that complicated their thinking or that offered new insights or information?
  4. What roles did individuals in the group play: leader, clarifier, idea person, organizer, etc.?
  5. What behaviors help or hinder group work activities?
  6. How useful was the discussion? If useful, why? If not, what problems can you identify?
  7. What specific ideas do you have to improve group discussions next time?

Types Of Groups

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But WE can all do small things, with great love, and together WE can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa

PAIR-SHARE DIALOGUES – Students are paired facing each other. The teacher defines an issue, question, or problem and invites each student, in turn, to speak in response for one or two minutes. As a listener, the student is to focus complete attention on the partner and what he/she is saying. After the pair-share, the teacher asks each student to paraphrase the partner’s views before expressing their reactions in a short general discussion.

LEARNING TEAMS – For this type of group, students are divided into groups at the beginning of the term. When you want to incorporate small group discussion or teamwork into your class, you direct the students to get into these term-long learning groups. Groups of four work well, because each foursome can be subdivided into pairs, depending on the activity.

CONVERSATION CIRCLES – These allow for students to have brief conversations with several other students. The teacher divides students into two groups of equal size. Ask one group to form a circle and face outward, the other group to form an outer circle by pairing with a partner from the inside circle. Pairs should face each other, standing a few feet apart. The teacher presents an issue, question, or problem and invites the pairs to give each other their response. Each student in the pair has one or two minutes to speak. Then the teacher asks the outside partner to move one, two or three places to the right. Each student will now have a new partner with whom to share ideas on the same issue, question or problem or, perhaps, a somewhat different one.

GROUP GO-AROUND – This process can multiply student conversations and promote participation. The teacher divides students into groups of four to six or seven sitting in a circle, perhaps to discuss the same issue, perhaps one of several questions under class consideration. One student begins the go-around without being interrupted, followed by each of the other students who wish to speak in turn. The go-around then is repeated with another question or problem.

THINK-PAIR-SHARE – This strategy has three steps. First, students think individually about a particular question or scenario. Then they pair up to discuss and compare their ideas. Finally, they are given the chance to share their ideas in a large class discussion.

SNOWBALL GROUPS/PYRAMIDS – This method involves progressive doubling: students first work alone, then in pairs, then in fours, and so on. In most cases, after working in fours, students come together for a plenary session in which their conclusions or solutions are pooled together. Provide a sequence of increasingly complex tasks so that students do not become bored with repeated discussion at multiple stages.

“It is literally true that YOU can succeed best and quickest by helping OTHERS to succeed.” – Napolean Hill

Groups work best when they have been together for quite some time. This means students get to know each other and besides the camaraderie created, they become committed and work for each other. Of course, there are exceptions but knowing the elements for effective group work can help teachers to build and maintain high-performance teams throughout the duration of the task at hand.

PLEASE try some of the suggestions above and see your class achieve more.

I also have a second post coming on the topic and would encourage you to enrich yourself through reading it. Thanks.

Good luck in all your endeavours.



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