Session 3.4 - Talking points and effective group work
1 Review of follow-up activities from last session
If you are running a professional learning programme which follows these sessions in sequence, then you should do the review of follow-up activities relating to the previous session (Mixed pace groupwork with and without ICT). The 'review of follow-up activities' for that session is available here, and also shown below in the session text. However, if you are following selected sessions in a different order, then you should use the reflection appropriate to the previous session you did.
The review of the follow-up activities for this session (to be done at the start of the next session) is available here.
Did you try out the group work with ICT activity that you planned?
- How did it go?
- Were there any practical difficulties? If so, how did you overcome these?
- How did the students respond to the activity?
- What would you do differently if you did this activity again?
Did anyone manage to video some of the group work and upload it to the server?
- Discuss any difficulties you had with this.
If participants have uploaded some video of their group work with ICT activity, find time to watch and discuss it during this session, bearing in mind these guidelines for the activity :
- Devise an open activity where groups have a shared goal and where outcomes may differ between groups, for a lesson you are teaching next week.
- Decide group size and how you will formulate groups so that they are made up of students working at different paces (look back at documents from Session 3.2 if you need to).
- How will you ensure everyone participates and everyone learns? How will you stretch all learners?
- Explicitly ask groups to make sure everyone understands the new concept or process; make it their responsibility to support each other and check this is happening.
- Assign different roles within the group.
2 More on pace grouping
We will consider further Judith's video clips on pace grouping from the previous session. Remind participants of the contents of those clips and pick up the discussion with the following two activities.
If these ideas have already been covered as a result of discussions in the last session, then just review the key issues.
In this interview Judith informed us that there were 9 slow learners in her class and only 4 formed a slow pace group; these 4 scored 0 but the other 5 were dispersed in other groups who got correct answers to the same problems. This indicates that not only is participation higher in mixed pace groups but achievement can be too (and research with bigger samples backs this up). Nevertheless, the 4 who achieved poorly were also regularly absent so their prior knowledge base was probably lower. Discuss: Do you think this means that the absentees are even more likely to benefit from peer interaction in a mixed group?
Judith was quick and effective at discouraging pupils from laughing at the low achieving group. Discuss: What other things could a teacher do during the lesson to prevent this situation?
- What in your opinion is the effect of labelling groups as low, middle or high ability of the pupils?
- How would you like to form groups supportive of everyone’s learning? Why?
Additional things to consider:
- helping low achieving group while everybody else is working in their groups
- peer support within a mixed pace group
- assigning roles within group
3 Talking points on statements about group work
Whole class dialogue(a) with talking points(a) (15 min): Discussing statements about group work. Discuss (in groups of 4 or 5 for the first 5 minutes) whether the following statements about group work (talking points) are ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘not sure’. Explain your reasoning. Tick (“V”) if your group agrees that they are true, cross (“X”) if your group agrees that they are false and question mark (“?”) if your group is not sure.
- Group work should finish in one lesson.
- Groups should be formed with the same pupils every time.
- Teacher should assist pupils for effective group work.
- All pupils in the group should be active during group work.
- Noise is not acceptable during group work.
- Agreements and disagreements are inevitable during group work.
- Mixed pace groups are better than same pace groups.
- Group work should always promote competition amongst different groups.
- Group work by pupils is free time for the teacher.
- Effective group work needs planning and preparation by the teacher before the lesson.
Discuss (as a whole group for the next 10 minutes) each talking point mentioned above. Each group should be prepared to explain their stance on any point, giving their reasons.
Circulate during the first 5 minutes and listen for lively discussions that you can refer to during the whole class dialogue. Remember, be selective when taking feedback from groups. Ask questions like:
- Does any group disagree with what this group has said?
- Does any group feel particularly strongly about any of the talking points?
Use the responses to these types of questions to build the whole group discussion/whole class dialogue.
Expect disagreements amongst groups about certain talking points. This is actually productive for the whole group as it promotes further discussion.
Encourage reasoning for all talking points. Get participants to explain why they agree or disagree with something?
Finally explain the concept of talking points: The above points stimulated participants discussion about group work. In the same way, you can use talking points in the classroom, e.g. when discussing a science topic.
Also remind the participants of the idea of "modelling": We use similar techniques in the workshops sessions to what we would use in the classroom.
4 About talking points
5 Planning a classroom activity with talking points
Same-task group work (15 min): Pair work on talking points. Work in pairs or threes with same-grade colleagues. Decide on a topic that you will be teaching this week. In the activity template, write down the talking points for that topic. Write at least 10 statements - some of which are true, some are false and some can either be true or false, depending on certain factors. Make sure the statements will generate discussion and not close it down; they need to provoke an argument. Here are some ideas:
- Things stop when they run out of force.
- Light can travel through water, air, and space.
- Sound can travel through water, air, and space.
- Things that give out light (like the sun) are always hot.
- Dark is a form of energy that is weaker than light.
- There is no gravity above the earth’s atmosphere.
- The air is too light to be affected by the earth’s gravity.
- You can reduce pressure by spreading weight out over a larger area.
- Money causes a lot of problems for people.
- Poor people are lazy.
- Some people, like footballers, get paid too much.
- There is never a good reason to steal money.
- Throwing rubbish into a pit is a good way of getting rid of it.
- You cannot throw things away, because there is no such place as ‘away’.
- Recycling means that you don’t cause any damage to the environment.
- The best way of getting from one town to another is by plane.
- Trains are a really slow way of travelling.
- Heating food is the same as burning it.
6 Effective group work practices
Individual accountability.(Relates to: LfL, ) Children might be assessed separately, and the group score then depends on those individual performances – individual accountability leading to team scores. Individual assessment is the most common scenario, i.e. children are given a brief quiz, where group members cannot help. Or there could be a random process (“random reporter”): “Number 2s should now represent their teams.” Teacher doesn’t know who the number 2s are, but the children do, and the corresponding children respond, justifying their answers etc. They in turn do not know in advance which number will be chosen - so everyone has to be ready or the team will not succeed!
You can link individual accountability to the use of mini blackboards. Learners could hold up mini blackboards or use another technique.
Team building exercises. You are forming “unlikely” groups (boys/girls, different achievement, different ethnic origins), so team building is needed. Take some account of friendship if conflicts may cause difficulties.
7 ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning
Different-tasks group work (20 min) with ICT talking points with images. We previously used images as part of questioning activities. Can you think of ways in which images could support certain talking points? Pair up and collect some images that you can use for talking points. What are the talking points? Why have you chosen these images?
8 Connecting with overarching goals of the programme
Open space (10 min). It's now time for the "open space", that gives you an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen, and to relate those to the broader context of the programme. Do not just gloss over this section, but make time to raise issues, and probe the progress that you are making. You could use this space to:
- Remind yourselves of the of the Most Significant Change Technique, and e.g. collect more of your stories.
- Discuss your assessment portfolios: Is there anything that you are unsure about? Is it going well? What could be done better?
- Check on the work with the classroom assistants: Is this going well? Are there any tensions? Any observations or tips you can share?
- Reviewing individual ICT practise (such as typing practise).
- If you are preparing a presentation for other teachers, you could work on the presentation (about what you have been learning, stories emerging from MSC).
- Remind those who are doing audio diaries, to upload them.
- You could discuss any other issues that have arisen.
You will find notes and summaries of various techniques and concepts on our reference page, and you might want to refer to those for clarification during this activity if needed.
9 Focus on reflection
Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Listening to a Zambian teacher's audio reflections on talking points. We now listen to a clip that was recorded after the teacher (Agness) had taken part in a previous version of this session. She is reflecting on the talking points and recording her own thoughts as a result of having taken part in a discussion like the one you took part in at the beginning of this session. In a subsequent recording for her portfolio, Agness elaborates and reflects further on her own personal use of talking points in the classroom.
Agness audio diary - talking points:
Whole class dialogue (5 min): Discussion of the audio clip on the 10 talking points about group work. In this case Agness has given well thought out responses to the talking points and has captured her own views about group work well. As a whole group, think about the following questions:
- Were Agness's opinions affected by taking part in the workshop discussion about group work?
- What learning took place for Agness during the 10 talking point discussion on group work?
The reality is that we can't answer these questions because the reflection, whilst detailed and comprehensive doesn't make explicit the participant's learning journey. Phrases like ''initially I thought...but then someone made the comment that...which made me think that perhaps...'' in your reflections are a way of reminding yourself how your thoughts and ideas are being developed as a result of taking part in this programme.
Listen to this short excerpt from Agness' portfolio audio recording.
Agness portfolio recording - talking points:
Whole class dialogue (5 min): Discussion of the portfolio reflection audio clip on talking points. Here Agness has presented a useful description of the talking points technique and its benefits in interactive teaching. It is very clear that she thinks it is a useful technique.
- What are the main differences between the two clips in terms of the depth of the teacher's reflection?
Remind yourselves of the reflective journal questions and notice which of those points the audio recordings address. Think about your own audio recordings or reflective journal and how they might be improved so as to highlight more explicitly your own learning journey in respect to using talking points (and other interactive teaching techniques) to improve teaching and learning.
Draw out the idea that example is useful to illustrate a point also the idea of the Plan-Teach-Reflect cycle. Encourage participants to make meaningful reflections that make it clear what learning has taken place for both them and the students. Here are some more specific questions if you feel that the reflective journal ones are too general:
- How was it the first time you used talking points? Were the students responsive? Did everyone participate?
- Which points were most successful and why?
- Why did you chose the statements that you chose? You don't have to mention them all, just perhaps one or two that specifically challenged a concept.
- Where your statements pitched at the right level for all students to access? How do you know?
- What did the students say that gave you an insight into their understanding or lack of?
- What could you change so that they worked better next time?
We will be listening to another portfolio reflection in the next session.
10 Follow-up activities
Try out your 10 talking points.
- Form mixed-pace groups of 4 students.
- Start with a team building activity of your choice.
- Set up the discussion – framed by some controversial talking points and using a technique to ensure individual accountability. (For example, ask every child to participate and explain you will pick [students won’t choose!] one from each group later on to report their own opinion and how it may have changed through the discussion.
- Encourage students to explain their reasoning and understanding to peers, ensuring that everyone understands and any gaps are identified and addressed. This is cooperative learning; students are expected to help each other learn.
- Monitor the groups to ensure this is happening and that there are no ‘free riders’ or individuals dominating the discussion.
- Reflect on how the activity went and plan to use it again with refinements/adjustments (you do not need to plan to teach exactly the same activity again, just to use talking points again)
- Make any changes to your plan that you feel are needed (e.g. were the group sizes too small/large, was your explanation clear enough, did you manage to ensure that all students participated, were there too many talking points etc)
- Be prepared to discuss how you will improve your use of the talking points activity at the beginning of the next session.
- Remember to keep practising your typing skills! (The awarding of a certificate at the end of the course will also depend on your typing skills!)
- Find and download images that could be used in conjunction with talking points.
In the next session, these follow-up activities will be reviewed. If you are using this session on its own, you can have a look at the review of follow-up activities here.
At the end of each session, we provide an overview of the activities in this session, together with their suggested timings. Although this appears at the end of the session (for technical reasons), you should keep an eye on this throughout the session, to make sure that you are pacing the workshop session appropriately!
Total time: 120 (min)
Activities in this session:
- Same-task group work (10 min): Discussion in pairs on pace grouping.
- Same-task group work (10 min): Further small group discussion on pace grouping.
- Whole class dialogue(a) with talking points(a) (15 min): Discussing statements about group work.
- Same-task group work (15 min): Pair work on talking points.
- Whole class dialogue (10 min) on structuring group work and individual accountability.
- Whole class dialogue (5 min): Brainstorm on team building.
- Different-tasks group work (20 min) with ICT talking points with images.
- Open space(10 min).
- Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Listening to a Zambian teacher's audio reflections on talking points.
- Whole class dialogue (5 min): Discussion of the audio clip on the 10 talking points about group work.
- Whole class dialogue (5 min): Discussion of the portfolio reflection audio clip on talking points.
- Agreeing follow-up activities(5 min).
If you have printed this session for offline use, you may also need to download the following assets: