Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 10, 2012

Classroom Management – Students working in groups

Everyone loves group work!

Recently, I had the pleasure of acting as a University Facilitator for four students in their final practicum at Red Deer College. As I watched each of these fledgling teachers interact with students, I was pleased to see them employing the tools of teaching in effective ways . . . but I did have my moments of concern.

On one occasion, the practicum student concluded the introduction to her lesson and announced the students would work in groups. All of the disasters of years past came flooding back – What if she allowed them to find their own partners and someone was left out? What if the students least likely to get anything done chose to work together? What if it took an interminable time to sort out the groups?

POOF! She pushed the upper left corner of her SMARTboard and the groupings appeared. She had predetermined the groups and all began well!

And now it’s time for my hint. My habit, as early in the school year as possible, was to create a list of twos and threes for each of my classes. I made pairs of students who I knew could work together. I then tried to switch things up and make threesomes who could work together – and not just the twosomes with an added partner. If possible, I made pairs of boys as well as pairs of girls, then I made pairs that were boy/girl combos. The threesomes were always mixed.

By having a list of twos and threes, I felt prepared for almost any eventuality. If I wanted foursomes, I simply joined two pairs, and for sixsomes, I joined two groups of three. 

Of course, there were occasions when I did allow students to choose their own groups. And on these occasions, there were times when someone was left out. I considered it a life lesson. Why was someone overlooked? We talked about it and dealt with it. I can remember saying, “It’s okay if you want to work in a small group – a group of one.”

P.S. If Classroom Management is an area of interest, see the previous entries under the titles:

Classroom Management: A Quiz, Classroom Management:Creating an Identity, Classroom Management: more than entertainment, Classroom Management:Learning Students’ Names #1, #2, #3, Classroom Management:Knowledge of Results (Code Names). There are also several entries under the titles Classroom Discipline and Classroom Rules.

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Responses

  1. I hated working in groups as a student in college. I always ended up with a lot of work while some members did nothing. Yet we all got the same grade. As an educator, I am attempting to teach my students how to work in groups. It is working out so far (after one week of trying).

    • Good for you! Being able to work with others is truly a life skill. If you can make it work for you in the classroom, then you have accomplished something very worthwhile. Because of your experience in college, you are aware of the pitfalls – some people not contributing, people earning the marks while others seem to get a free ride. For me, group work was something I used on occasion but not exclusively. It has its place but must be used in moderation. Best wishes!


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