Group Work - Maintaining Momentum/Document

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Maintaining momentum It is vital to maintain the momentum of group work. Effective intervention should support pupils through the task without interrupting or interfering. For instance, it is all too easy for a teacher to join a discussion and unintentionally take it over.

Strategies for effective intervention Look at the grid below, which sets out the main reasons for intervention.

Add any other strategies, prompts and questions that you have found useful when intervening during group work.

Choose an activity that you are planning for one of your classes. For each of the reasons for intervention, write a suitable prompt or question that you might be able to use during this particular activity

Reason for intervention Strategies, prompts and questions
To focus pupils on the learning Ask these three questions to focus pupils’ attention on the task. (You may have to modify the first two slightly, according to the nature of the task.)
  • What are you trying to find out / do?
  • What do you think will happen / the answer is likely to be?
  • Why?
To ensure that pupils are working within the time frame available
  • Give time markers, e.g. ‘You have 10 minutes left’, or prompt pupils, e.g. ‘How much time do you think you have left? What else needs to be done?’
  • Ask pupils to map out how they will use the remaining time, e.g. 15 minutes research, 5 minutes discussion. (You could ask them to do this at the start to avoid problems later.)
To support pupils who are stuck on the task
  • Ask pupils to restate the task in their own words. Ask them to explain their thinking about where they are, then ask them to speculate about the way forward, e.g. ‘What do you think we need to do next?’ or ‘What could we do next? What are the options?’
  • Provide pupils with a scaffold such as a speaking frame (like a writing frame) to support discussion.
To support groups who are having problems cooperating with each other
  • Provide pupils with a group goal.
  • Allocate different roles to group members.
  • Restate the learning outcome required and link it to the behaviour required, e.g. ‘To do this you will need to cooperate …’.
To press pupils to take their thinking one step further by asking questions or supplying additional information Use a hierarchy of questions moving from recall through comprehension, application, analysis and synthesis to evaluation (Bloom’s taxonomy).

Use question stems that start with

  • name, state, describe, where, what;
  • how, why, illustrate, summarise;
  • use or predict, show me where;
  • analyse, break this down into, relate this to;
  • design, create, compose, reorganise;
  • assess, evaluate, justify.
To correct misunderstandings Make a judgement about the nature of the misunderstanding. If it is straightforward, then correct it. If it has arisen from a misconception, then use questioning to probe pupils’ thinking.
To give pupils feedback on their performance Pupils respond well to praise, so link the learning to behaviours and force pupils to consider what to do next, e.g. ‘As a group you have collected the data and completed the table well; that means you concentrated. Do you think the graph you have drawn matches the data?’

Classroom assignment: intervention using questions 1 hour First watch video sequence 10f, which shows a teacher intervening during group work in an English lesson.

Note how the teacher uses questioning to focus pupils’ thinking. She uses many Why? and What does this mean? questions to promote and stimulate thinking.

Focusing pupils on the learning is important. Arrange a group-work exercise for the pupils in one of your classes. Allow them to get started, and after 3 or 4 minutes approach each group and try out the three focusing questions in the task. Later intervene by asking questions to promote thinking further. Evaluate how effective such approaches are.