Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Group Work

I saw awhile back on a teacher blog (sorry, it was back in November and I don't recall which blog it was) about the trials and tribulations of allowing your students to work in groups. Some of the research says that this is important for students because someday they will work in a group. So, they need to start to learn to work together for a common goal. It sounds good, but then again, realistically, many students will not work someday in, say, an engineering team designing the latest MHHM (Martian Human Habitat Module). From what I often see out in the world, it seems most people work solo for the most part, with interactions on occasion with co-workers under the direction of a boss. Ah, there is a lesson for our students to learn; follow directions from your boss. Anyhow, here is what Polski3 does regarding groups.

Start small...work in pairs, providing explict instructions on the tasks and behavior expectations. Then, when they have more or less mastered pair work, work up to a group of three, then four, constantly reminding them of the task and behavoir expectations.

I also teach my students a lesson in choice. In my first group assignment of the school year, I let them choose the group (usually something small, in groups of no more than two or three students) they wish to work with. Many do not make good choices. This lesson is reinforced by their group grade. Many discover that the people they enjoy socializing and messing around with are not the best students or not very capable of keeping to the task. Many groups find that it is usually one member of the group that does the majority of the work. These students, who do most of the work, get admonished by their parent(s) for their poor choices in work-mates. I also get a few parents requesting of me, NOT to let their child ever work with such and such a child because of a variety of reasons. And on several occasions over the years, a few parents have gone so far as to request that their child's schedule is changed to help keep them away from some "evil child". Yes, you can assign specific jobs or roles within the group, but in my experience in social studies (it worked better in science having a team leader, gopher, recorder, equiptment manager) this takes more time in teaching each about their role/job and often seriously cuts into the time you need for getting the activity completed.

From there, my future group activities usually are in groups that I create. And, by that time of the school year, those that will/can will work with others that will/can; those who are not prone to producing in a group situation (or anytime else for that matter) will have the option of working on the project (or a variation of the project), with others like themselves, or solo. I never force a student to work with someone else.

What do you do regarding group activities in your classroom ? Please share it with us.

Thank you for reading my blog. I welcome your comments.