Session 3.2 - When to use group work and how to manage it
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 (Group work Same task and different tasks group work). 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.
In Part A you were asked to carry out one same task group work and one different tasks group work in your classroom. As a group, draw out the variety of different approaches used for the following:
(a) how did you form the groups, (b) what did you do while pupils were engaged, (c) how did you ensure that all pupils were participating and (d) how did you encourage agreement, disagreement and negotiation?
Did you try out the numbering strategy for randomly selecting the presenter?
Part B: Share with the whole group any other methods that you used select group members at random for giving a presentation. Were your methods straightforward/successful/fun? Did you manage to get normally reticent students to take part?
Part C: Did anyone choose to post their questions on the Google groups for all participants? Those of you that posted/commented or replied, share with the others how you found the process and be prepared to answer any questions that other participants might have about the technicalities of the process.
2 Reinforcing understanding of group work: Using the Magic Microphone for reasoning
Individual activity (10 min) on answering the question: 'When would you use group work in your classroom and why?' . Think of answers to the question below. You can write them on a mini-blackboard or sheet of paper for reference during the activity. Think of as many answers as possible and give a reason in each case. (Tip: think of the Powerpoint presentation about questioning strategies that you saw in the previous session and draw on your own experience of carrying out group work in the classroom.)
QUESTION: When would you use group work in your classroom and why?
Give concrete examples of specific lesson activities where possible. For example:
- when a topic has many sub-topics because the sub-topics can be mastered by small groups and then taught to other groups, as in different types of pollution
- when summarising the topic that has extended over many lessons (give example) because pupils can remind each other about the things that they have learnt without repetition by the teacher
- when applications of a topic (give example) are being discussed because there can be many answers for this
- when practising a new skill (e.g. working out the average) to allow learners to learn from each other
We did a simple version of the magic microphone activity in Unit 2 Session 1. Now we are taking this to the next level to explicitly promote reasoning among participants as well as pupils.
For this activity, you will need a prop such as a stick, a pen, a ball or an empty water bottle.
Allow 8-10 minutes thinking time before passing around the prop.
Ask every participant to contribute one answer initially, with a reason. Encourage them to avoid repeating an answer that has been already said. In the end, if time permits, you can ask participants to contribute any reason that they have written but has not yet been said by any other participant.
Emphasise that participants should give reasons for their answers or answer the ‘why’ question. Ideally they should mention a specific lesson topic example.
Some examples of expected answers are:
- when peers can be useful learning resources for each other
- to encourage sharing, reasoning and challenging of ideas
- to support pupils’ construction and articulation of their own understanding of problems, processes or concepts
- when groups can usefully each contribute one part to a larger whole task
- when the teacher wants learners to investigate a topic for themselves and present their findings to the class for other groups to learn from, perhaps via comparison of findings
- when teacher attention is required for conceptual learning of a small number of participants at one time
- at any stage of the lesson: introduction, development and consolidation
If any of the points above are not mentioned by participants, you can state them in the end.
3 Managing group work
Place three containers (or sheets of paper) on the table. Label them ‘same task’, ‘different tasks’ and ‘both’.
Practical activity (5 min): Indicating your progress with group work. Write your name on a slip (small piece) of paper and fold it. Drop your name slip in the ‘same task’ container if you are confident about carrying out same task group activity in the class. Similarly, drop it in the container ‘different tasks’ if you are confident about carrying out different tasks and ‘both’ container if you are confident about ‘both’.
Pull out one name from each container and group them together as Group 1 (G1). Similarly form groups G2 and G3. If there are too many names in one container and too few in another, adjust the numbers taken from each container whilst trying to maintain a level of similarity in group composition. The aim is to form groups that have the same level of 'expertise' in managing group work. Alternatively you could choose another strategy of forming groups from the document ‘Group composition and formation’. Try to manage this process of forming groups swiftly.
- G1: Group composition and formation ((info))
- G2: Ground rules during group work ((info))
- G3: Group size and seating arrangement ((info))
Read the document for your group. Do the group tasks mentioned in your document.
Group G2 will watch a video during their task.
Before the session starts prepare this video clip for G2 to access on a netbook. Ask G2 members to sit near the netbook during the task.
Allow G1 and G3 participants to choose an area where they wish to work.
Allow 30 minutes for the group tasks. After 20 minutes, remind the groups that they should start preparing their presentation if they have not already done so.
Visit each group during the group task. Assist them if they need help in understanding the information in the document or group task. Ask questions to monitor understanding. Suggest ideas only if the participants ask for your suggestions.
Ensure that all participants have all documents before the presentations at the end of this activity.
4 Classroom organisational strategies and carousel group work
The video below shows some classroom organisational strategies mainly around group work. We will watch the first 10 minutes of the video now and the rest can be watched after the session in participants' own time. Although the video describes science teaching in the UK context, the principles are generic and can be applied in various curriculum areas and contexts. The organisation called the ‘circus of activities’ is commonly known as a ‘carousel’ because the children move around the classroom like the hobby horses move around a carousel (see image).
Suggested questions for reflection on video:
- Summarise the different classroom organisation strategies that you saw in this video (in the first 10 minutes):
- whole class introduction
- whole class doing same practical activity
- groups doing different practical activities
- circus of activities or carousel of activities
- What is one new thing that you have learned from this video? How can you transfer what you have learned to another curriculum area besides science?
- What is the role of teachers before the group work and after the group work? Is it different from your current practice? If yes, in what ways is it different?
- What did the teachers in the video do while the pupils were doing group work? Is it different from your current practice? If yes, what changes, if any, would you like to make for effective group work in your class?
- What do you think about noise in the classroom during group work from this video? What can you do to make sure that noise is productive during group work?
- After the session, in your own time, summarise the different classroom organisation strategies that you saw in this video (in the second 10 minutes):
- one group only doing science
- whole class demonstration
- sharing science books with the whole class
- How did the teachers in this video make use of ICT resources during group work? Suggest some ways in which you can use those or other ICT resources in your classroom? (You can also think of improvising with the materials available in your surroundings, if there is no ICT)
Carousel(a) group work is an important concept, for instance in situations where there are not enough ICTs available to 'go round'. Rather than distributing available ICTs 'thinly', you can do carousel group work instead. We have already alluded to this when introducing typing practice in the classroom.
The TESSA resource on learning through games contains cultural games that can be played in groups as a carousel of activities (meaning that only one of each game is required rather than a class set).
5 ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning
Continue to try out GeoGebra. How did the GeoGebra exploration go? How can you use GeoGebra in a lesson? Use the activity template to develop an activity as you continue exploring GeoGebra.
By now, you should aim to develop some familiarity with the ICT tools that we have introduced so far, namely GeoGebra and Open Office Impress (for images), and also make progress with your typing practise. You can refer back to the introduction to GeoGebra, introduction to slideshows with OpenOffice, and typing practice with students.
Learning about GeoGebra, Open Office Impress, and attaining reasonable typing skills are key goals for this programme. As participants practise these skills, go around the room and see whether you can identify problems.
6 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.
7 Follow-up activities
Part A: Try the magic microphone activity with reasoning in your class. Form an open question that is related to the topic that students are learning followed by ‘why’. Encourage students to answer the ‘why’ question.
Part B: During the second activity you read one document on managing group work. Read the other two documents. Make a note of any questions that you might have about them. List examples of objectives that can be achieved through different types of groups in the document ‘Group composition and formation’.
Part C: Try one new organisational strategy that you saw in the video in your classroom, in any curriculum area.
Part D: Watch the rest of the video on carousel group work and complete the remaining questions.
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.
We are grateful to Prof Tina Jarvis and colleagues for permission to use their Primary Science - Classroom Organisation video, produced by the SCIcentre (National Centre for Initial Teacher Training in Primary School Science).
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:
- Whole class dialogue (10 min): Review of follow-up activities
- Individual activity (10 min) on answering the question: 'When would you use group work in your classroom and why?' .
- Magic microphone (5 min) activity on group work.
- Practical activity (5 min): Indicating your progress with group work.
- Different-tasks group work (20 min) on managing group work in the classroom.
- Group presentations (15 min) on managing group work.
- Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Video on classroom organisational strategies and carousel group work.
- Whole class dialogue (10 min): Discussion on Video on classroom organisational strategies and carousel group work.
- Different-tasks group work (20 min) with GeoGebra.
- Open space(10 min).
- Agreeing follow-up activities(5 min).
If you have printed this session for offline use, you may also need to download the following assets:
- Video/How to Involve Students in Setting Up Their Own Ground Rules.mp4 (local play / download options)
- Video/Primary Science - Classroom Organisation.mp4 (local play / download options)