That dreaded groupwork fear of mine

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Pi-R-Squared, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Groupie

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    Oct 28, 2014

    I want to grow as a teacher and incorporating groupwork is something I need to try (again).

    A recap: My first year was fraught with misguided attempts at having students working in groups and quickly losing control of the classroom. So, toward the end of the year, I had all my classes work from their textbooks independently. This had pros and cons. One pro being that the classroom was managed and quiet. One con was that some students just sat there, pencil in hand, no work, yet quiet....

    Today: I have had no groupwork in any of my classes so far. However, in order for me to grow, I kinda need to start doing this. Someone suggested with pairs to begin with. I'm afraid that pairs may turn into quads and then I'm back to classroom mgmt. issues. I'm also thinking about sending groups of kids to the board and letting them work with dry-erase markers. What I mean is, I will form 8 groups of 3s and send them all up there to work on problems. What happens if one group or some groups finish much earlier than others? Do I sit them down with nothing to do? And what is the "exit strategy" for groupwork? I learned that having groups for too long turns into gab-fests (girls talking and boys poking each other). Sometimes, it just feels better to leave it status-quo.

    Any ideas? I know I've asked this before but I want to try to make it work little-by-little.
     
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  3. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    Oct 28, 2014

    I've found that walking around with a clipboard and assigning points works well. I always tell them that they start at zero, and are expected to earn 3 points that day. They earn a point each time I catch them on task. They lose a point if I hear them off task. I've also told them that they will automatically get a zero on the assignment if they do not earn their 3 points for in class work that day. I inform them when they lose a point, but not when they gain one.
     
  4. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    Oct 28, 2014

    I also advocate for giving students the option of working alone vs. in pairs or groups, at least some of the time. Some students hate cooperative learning and there's no reason to force it on them every time.

    Also lay out your expectations clearly. Make group work something to be earned, and something that can be lost.
     
  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 28, 2014

    Group work doesn't need to be a huge thing. Having students talk for 30 seconds about their opinion about a topic with their partners is technically group work.

    I always err on the side of too little time to get their discussions done and then it's right back to independent work so they can process their partner's ideas or their investigation.

    My classes look a lot like mostly independent and teacher-led work with a bit of partner talk, group investigations (for labs), and presentations sprinkled in.

    I would start with the simplest of the simple: Think-Pair-Shares. You ask the students a question, students think for a few seconds on their own, they talk with their partner about it for no longer than a minute, and then they share out their thoughts. Make the sharing equally accountable so anyone has a chance of getting called on, and there is a slight consequence if they're not prepared (even a few points of participation, or a small verbal reprimand works).
     
  6. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    Oct 28, 2014

    here's my tip for math. Don't announce anything as group work or arrange your desks differently.That leads to chaos (in my experience). Give the students work. Then, without saying or doing anything, let them work together if they want or need it. In this scenario it (group work) happens informally. It's very productive, works much better than announced "groupwork" and , as Peregrin and Gemstone said, it respects the needs of those who prefer to work alone. Keep moving around the room. You can have your cake and eat it too. You just have to be careful about how you go about it.
     
  7. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Oct 28, 2014

    With group work it also helps to be very explicit about expectations beforehand in terms of:
    1. What good groups look like (talking quietly, on task, getting along and what that looks like... etc)
    2. What you DON'T want to see
    3. What to do if they finish early (because there will always be groups that work faster than others)
    4. What a good final product looks like

    I had the most trouble with groups last year when I didn't set expectations first -- the group projects I did with rubrics or clear verbal expectations went SO much more smoothly, and honestly... the final products turned out better because the kids knew what to do. Granted, my class was 2nd grade and MS and HS might be a bit different in terms of how you set the expectations, but still.
    Also, you can always do things like have groups solve problems together on chart paper and explain how they did it to the class. Things like that are still group work but wouldn't take as long and would leave less time for the chaos to set in. :)
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oct 28, 2014

    Make it cooperative learning, not group work. Set up activities so that the following are present:

    1.Positive interdependence. Team members are obliged to rely on one another to achieve the goal.
    2. Individual accountability. All students in a group are held accountable for doing their share of the work and for mastery of all of the material to be learned.
    3. Face-to-face promotive interaction. Although some of the group work may be parcelled out and done individually, some must be done interactively, with group members providing one another with feedback, challenging reasoning and conclusions, and perhaps most importantly, teaching and encouraging one another.
    4. Appropriate use of collaborative skills. Students are encouraged and helped to develop and practice trust-building, leadership, decision-making, communication, and conflict management skills.
    5. Group processing. Team members set group goals, periodically assess what they are doing well as a team, and identify changes they will make.
     
  9. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Oct 28, 2014

    I would highly suggest to go to a middle ground. Have your students work in partners. It is much easier to control and they still get some of the benefit of group work by working with another student. After this goes well after a month, then try moving to groups.
     
  10. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Oct 29, 2014

    This is exactly what I do.
     
  11. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    This is what I always did when I taught MS. Group work just 'happened". I encouraged students to talk to one another & discuss strategies. They naturally gravitated into pairs that worked really well together. And those that wanted to be left alone could have their independence without having to 'carry' a group member.
     
  12. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Oct 29, 2014

    I would do groupwork only on certain days. (twice a week, maybe?) Not everything in a lesson calls for cooperative learning, so when it's direct instruction, independent work, etc, I would leave the seats in rows. This way the actual purpose of 'group work' is emphasized and the disruptions are greatly reduced.

    I know moving desks can be disruptive, but in my classes I have done it 4 times without problems. Out of my 3 classes I only moved the desks into a large desk shape in 2 classes, and the students were very fast and eager to move them into place, and then the other class to move them back to their original position. I have another class which can be disruptive, so I didn't do it with them.
     

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