Unit 3 - Group work

Session 3.2 - When to use group work and how to manage it

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Learning intentions and objectives.
In this session you will learn about:

  • when and why to use group work in the classroom
  • three different aspects of managing group work:
    • group composition and formation
    • ground rules during group work
    • group size and seating arrangement
  • "carousel" group work (sometimes called a circus of activities) where different groups do the same activities but in a different order

Success criteria.
To meet the learning intentions you will:

  • participate in a magic microphone reasoning activity, suggesting a specific example of when group work could be used in the classroom with reasons
  • work as part of a small group on one aspect of managing group work and prepare and deliver a presentation on it to the whole group
  • actively listen to other groups presentations on two other aspects of managing group work
  • watch a video and discuss 'carousel' group work, thinking particularly about its use in a limited resource environment

ICT components.
The ICT components you will focus on are Classroom use of

  • Geogebra,
  • slideshows,
  • (optional) concept mapping software.

Classroom based activities (with your students, after this session):

  • You will do a lesson with your students that involves Geogebra, slideshows, or (optionally) concept mapping software.

1 Review of follow-up activities from last session

2 Reinforcing understanding of group work: Using the Magic Microphone for reasoning

Oer4s groupwork general2.jpg

Activity icon.png 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

Activity icon.png Magic microphone (5 min) activity on group work. Pass a prop around. Whoever has the prop answers the question above and gives their reason(s).

3 Managing group work

Activity icon.png 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’.

Activity icon.png Different-tasks group work (20 min) on managing group work in the classroom. The three mixed groups will work on different aspects of managing group work in classroom. They are:

Read the document for your group. Do the group tasks mentioned in your document.

Group G2 will watch a video during their task.

Activity icon.png Group presentations (15 min) on managing group work. At the end, present what you have learned about managing group work for the benefit of other participants (see details in your document).

4 Classroom organisational strategies and carousel group work

Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Video on 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)


Primary Science

Primary Science - Classroom Organisation

Video/Primary Science - Classroom Organisation.mp4, https://oer.educ.cam.ac.uk/wiki/Video/Primary_Science_-_Classroom_Organisation.mp4,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Video from other organisations folder.About this video. Duration: 19:47 (Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "". watch on YouTube, local play / download options / download from dropbox) We are grateful to Prof Tina Jarvis and colleagues for permission to use this clip produced by the SCIcentre (National Centre for Initial Teacher Training in Primary School Science).(Series: Video from other organisations, episode N/A)

Related resources

The TESSA resource Investigating Number and Pattern : Learning through games consists of five traditional number-based games that you can play with your students to help enhance their mathematical understanding. They range from mental arithmetic games played with the whole class to more complex board games to be played in groups as part of a carousel of number-based activities. Useful case studies and an interesting context (a story of a boy whose arithmetic improved because he entered puzzles into a competition) are also included with the resource.

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Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): Discussion on Video on classroom organisational strategies and carousel group work.

5 ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning

Activity icon.png Different-tasks group work (20 min) with GeoGebra.

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.

6 Connecting with overarching goals of the programme

Activity icon.png 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

Activity icon.png Agreeing follow-up activities (5 min).

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.

8 Acknowledgement

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).