I've tried to do group work but it never works out. Students get too loud and are off task or out of their seat. Does anyone have any rules/procedures for group work? I teach middle school Language Arts (Reading/Writing). Thank you for your suggestions. They will be greatly appreciated.
*When starting group at the beginning of the year, do activities where academia is not the main goal. Don't waste the time, but if you can focus mainly on how cooperative learning should look and sound, you will have more time to instruct students on group work in an authentic situation.
*Before every lesson using small groups/partners/etc., I review my expectations with students, as well as consequences. After awhile, they know the expectations so well, that I don't tell them-they tell me! It was amazing during student teaching how once students got use to my expectations they could pretty much word-for-word say EXACTLY what was expected of them.
*Give feedback. I always monitor group work. I definitely monitor the academic tasks, of course, in order to assess students and provide help and feedback. However, as I am walking around, I also give feedback for group work. I refocus students, correct them if need be (or prompt them to correct themselves), praise them for what I like, etc. I had an education professor and when he was a classroom teacher he carried around a clipboard with a T-chart on the paper while the students were working. One side of the T chart was for the good things he heard and saw, the other was for the bad. When group work was finished, he praised them by reading all of the good things they did. Then he discreetly (without pointing fingers) talked about the bad, encouraging them to change it for next time, addressing why it wasn't allowed, etc. You will also notice that as you walk around the room, the students are on their toes because you could be by them at any moment-they are less likely to misbehave! Don't be afraid to say something when students are not meeting your expectations. I'm nice about it and I don't embarrass the students, but when they are not meeting my expectations, they know it. I don't ignore it. I specifically tell them what I don't like and what they should be doing.
*Create a task list for your students when you do group work/partner work. List every task specifically and have a place where they can check the task off when they finished. This will help keep them on task and know what is expected.
*Assign groups CAREFULLY! I can't emphasize this enough. During student teacher, I always planned the groups and it took awhile sometimes! It wasn't just a 1-2-3-1-2-3 numbering decision. I spent a lot of time thinking about students' academic, behavioral, and social skills and placed them accordingly. I made sure that certain people were not with others and that certain people were with certain people in order to maximize productivity. Be very intentional with your choices!
*Assign roles! Give each person a role or a task to complete in order to help them play an active role and stay on task. Again, be very intentional with your roles. During student teaching, I always tried to assign each student a role that I know he or she would succeed at or a role that would be best for them.
*Be careful with the size of groups. If groups are too big, some students will be off task. Everyone needs to be involved. Three or four people per group was usually what I did-often 3, but again, it depends on the task at hand.
Good luck! Please know that the difficulties you are having are difficulties that everyone will have! You really need to start the year explicitly teaching your expectations. As students get use to it, they get better at it. I did a lot of cooperative learning during student teaching and you can really see an improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. They will get better at it, just be patient and encouraging, as well as clear and consistent.
Sorry this is so long...can you tell I love using cooperative learning?
They have a website and lots of books. If you're really interested in doing cooperative learning--not group work--you must check out Kagan. You'll quickly realize why group work hasn't worked in the past! I've done cooperative learning with kindergarten and first graders successfully, but there are so many more wonderful structures for older students who can read! Have fun!!
Explain rules and procedures before they begin working. "When you are working on A, B, or C, you will work on the task at hand, keep your voices down, and not talk to anyone outside your group," etc. I also explain to mine that group work is a privledge, not a necessity (I teach 9th) and if they can't handle it, we won't do it.
Instead of allowing the students to chose the groups (if they chose their friends and play around rather than working) you chose their groups - put the class clowns with more serious students.
To prevent students from roaming, tell them from the beginning, when explaining group procedures, that they are not to get up - and if they need supplies to raise their hand and you will get what they need. (Maybe you can have coloring boxes with a few necessities for group work in it - scissors, crayons, glue, etc.) If you see them up, remind them of the procedure.
If the students need an array of supplies, (that would be difficult for you to pass out) another thing you can do (I do this with a behaved group of students) is to tell the students that only one member of their group is allowed out of their seat at a time and it is only to get supplies and to sit back down immediately after. (if the students can't handle this - appoint a "supply manager" for every group)
Last edited by missenglish; 08-20-2011 at 08:20 PM..
When I start a unit where I want students to work in groups I pick a social skill that we practice and make an anchor chart for just like Daily 5.
For example, for my first science unit Matter, I will focus on the social skill of cooperation. We will brainstorm and/or I will teach what it means, what it looks like and what it sounds like. We practice AND I do pick groups carefully at first.
I also number each group so then I might say "#1s go get paper" and "#2s go get the glue" etc.
I also call on group numbers randomly. I ask that students help all members of their group have the answer but doing a lot of talking to each other. (These strategies came from GLAD training but you can use them any time.) I might say "blue group #2 what is cooperation?" If they don't know I ask them to put their heads together and have their group help them!
Everyone in the group has a job.... including the job of communicator whe is the only person in the group to ask questions of the teacher or discuss things with the teacher. It makes students talk together about what they need before sending the communicator to the teacher.... and makes life easier for the teacher.
Other jobs could include: resource person, timekeeper, behaviour monitor, note taker, noise controller etc. Make these up to suit your needs.
Hope this helps.
Why would anyone consider group work with Language Arts? By middle school, children do not need to be read to and group writing is ridiculous! What's wrong with a group discussion about a book and/or student writing, lead by a teacher so children do not go off task. Leaving children to work with other children is not teaching, it is mayhem. What's wrong with children having to be responsible for their own individual learning. As a parent I have seen a lot of silly group assignments, reports done in text writing, group reading, acting out safety rules, group posters, decorating doors, group work where parents have to organise and get kids together after school. I thought teacher 's needed more time to teach, why would you waste precious time doing these time consuming tasks. Stand up to administration and say No! I guanantee that your student's test scores with go up if they have to read and write by themselves and not depend on someone else to do the work for them.
When students work in groups, it is not just for fun. It is for students to experience the real world socially and educationally. In any event, students will have to work with others and need to do so effectively. Group work should not be meaningless, so if students are designing doors and doing meaningless tasks, I am sure there is mayhem! When students are working in effective small groups, their should be a teacher center where students can have the opportunity to work closely with the teacher. This is proven to raise test scores. So yes, effective groups are fundamental in students' success, elementary school and beyond.