3. Group work
These techniques provided different ways of organizing group work and collaborative activities. They can be used during the main part of literacy and language lessons.
1 Talk partners and thought-showering
Children are asked to turn to partners to: consult, try out an idea, formulate a response, discuss a point, raise questions, explain a point or share an anecdote from their experience.
For thought-showering, they quickly list ideas about an issue, topic or questions and then share them with a group or whole class.
Children are asked to consider an issue or problem individually (such as reading and preparing a response to an information text or a news item), then explain their ideas to a partner. After the pair has discussed the issue, they join another pair, share views and emerge with a group conclusion or perspective.
Children are organized to discuss something or to investigate an issue in pairs. The pairs then join another pair to form a group and share their findings. The small groups then join together to make a larger one, for example:
2 4 8 16 whole-class
This approach can be useful when controversial material is being read and evaluated, perhaps for bias or for portraying stereotypical images.
4 Information gap
Choose a topic that can be divided into two complementary parts, for example, a discussion of the pros and cons of experiments on animals. Split a small group into two sub-groups and give each group information related to one part of the topic. To complete the task, pupils will need to use talk to share the information and draw it together.
5 Statements game
A group is given a set of cards on which statements are written. The group is asked to agree, through discussion, how to categorise the statements, e.g. either agree or disagree with the statement or place them in order of importance or relevance, when some might be considered of equal importance, using the power triangle:
Each member of a working group is given a colour. When the group task is complete the children form new groups according to their colours. Within the colour groups, children compare findings/discuss what they have achieved. This is a useful way of disseminating and sharing ideas. It helps children to clarify their own understanding and provides an opportunity for them to question others and to seek justification for any viewpoints. It is a useful technique for reading and critical evaluation of fiction or poetry. It can also be used for drafting and redrafting, when children work on a story starter in one group and then, in their colour group, pool ideas and draw out the best features. The process can then be repeated for the next phase of a story.
- Organise the class into home groups, preferably of equal numbers.
- Number each child in the home group: 1, 2, 3 or 4. If the numbers in a group are uneven, two children can be set the same individual task: 1, 2, 3, 4, 4.
- Assign each child with the same number (i.e. all the number 3s) to one area for investigation.
- The children now rearrange themselves to form expert groups (i.e. all the number 1s together, etc.) to undertake investigations, discuss their work and agree on the main points to report back to the home group.
- Children re-form into their home groups and each individual member reports back on the findings of the expert group
This is a method of disseminating ideas and information that can overcome a more laborious and repetitive procedure of having each group ‘report back’ to the whole class.
Once each group has completed its initial discussion, it sends out one member as an envoy to the next group. Envoys move round all the other groups in turn explaining/sharing ideas gathered from the groups they have visited.
9 Group work and drama
Drama activities can be used effectively across the curriculum to promote high-quality thinking, discussion and written outcomes through group work. Here are some examples of strategies which can be used in lesson introductions or during the main part of literacy and language lessons.
10 Hot seating
Children work in pairs or a small group to prepare ideas and questions for a character from a book or someone with a particular viewpoint on an issue. The person in the hot seat could be a pupil working in role, a teacher or a member of the community.
11 Forum theatre
Forum theatre allows an incident or event to be seen from different points of view, making it a very useful strategy for examining alternative ideas. A small group acts out a scene while the rest of the class watches them. The class work as directors of the group in role, e.g. asking them to act or speak in a different way, suggesting that a character might behave differently, questioning the characters in role, or suggesting an alternative interpretation for what is happening.
12 Conscience alley
Conscience or decision alley is a means of exploring a character’s mind at a moment of crisis and of investigating the complexity of the decision they are facing. The class creates two lines facing each other. One child in role as a particular character walks down the ‘alley’ between the lines. Children voice the character’s thoughts, both for and against a particular decision or action that the character is facing, acting as his/her conscience. The child in role listens to his conscience before making a decision about the course of action to take.
13 Role on the wall
The outline of a body is drawn on a large sheet of paper, which is later stuck onto the wall. This can be done by carefully drawing around one of the participants. Words or phrases describing the character are then written directly onto the drawing or stuck on with post-its. This drama technique can be carried out as a group activity or by individuals writing about their own character. You can include known facts such as physical appearance, age, gender, location and occupation, as well as subjective ideas such as likes/dislikes, friends/enemies, attitudes, motivations, secrets and dreams.
The leader or one member of the group acts as conductor, whilst the rest of the group is the 'orchestra'. Using their voices (and body percussion if appropriate!), the group paints a soundscape of a particular theme or mood, for example the seaside, a city, a jungle. The leader can control the shape of the piece by raising her hand to increase the volume or bringing it to touch the floor for silence. You may also use simple percussion instruments for this exercise.