Group Work in the Classroom? Teach Working Together Well

Group work in the classroom requires working together well. When you teach these skills, kids divide tasks and get along better.

Ms. Sneed Tries Some Group Work in the Classroom

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sighed loudly.

“What’s wrong?” asked her mentor.

Ms. Sneed rolled her eyes. “I tried some group work in the classroom. You know, for the project we discussed. Instead of engaging them, chaos reigned! First, I noticed that some kids took over all the tasks. Of course, the others just goofed around. Second, I heard them butting in, insulting, and generally being rude.”

Mrs. Washington nodded knowingly. “I know what you mean. I’ve had that same experience, and it was so disheartening.”

As she looked up, Ms. Sneed noticed a twinkle in her mentor’s eye. “Fortunately,” Mrs. Washington continued, “we can get your students to work well together.”

Working Together Well

Ms. Sneed leaned in. “How? I’d really like to know.”

As she spoke, the mentor opened her laptop and clicked around. “Years ago, I found some strategies that really help with group work in the classroom.”

She stopped and pointed at the file she’d pulled up. “Here it is.”

Establish What to Say During Group Work in the Classroom

On the first page, Ms. Sneed noticed a list of tips for working well together. It modeled what to say when agreeing, disagreeing, adding, and concluding.

Her eyes grew large. “Wow, this is great. We can use this for group work in the classroom. And maybe we can also bring it to our next teacher work session.”

Mrs. Washington laughed. “Yes, these suggestions are great for people of all ages.”

Want kids to work well together? Provide some suggested talking points when they engage in group work in the classroom.
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Provide Guidelines for Working Well Together

On the second page, an anchor chart listed four guidelines, or rules, for working in groups in the classroom:

  1. Come to discussions prepared. Read and/or prepare required materials.
  2. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussion. Carry out assigned roles.
  3. Pose and respond to questions. Contribute to the discussion.
  4. Be respectful of others and their ideas.

“Aha,” said Ms. Sneed. “Basically, they must be prepared, stay in their lanes, participate, and respect others. Simple, yet also profound.”

Establish guidelines for group work in your classroom.

Assign Roles for Group Work in the Classroom

Next, Mrs. Washington displayed a set of role cards: leader, manager, recorder, and presenter. “Assigning roles truly does keep kids in their lanes. Believe me, this does wonders for getting them to work well together.”

Ms. Sneed read each card:

Leader

  • Keeps group on task.
  • Encourages teamwork.
  • Encourages all to contribute.

Manager

  • Gets teacher help.
  • Gathers supplies.
  • Keeps track of time.

Recorder

  • Takes notes.
  • Checks wording.
  • Asks what group members meant.

Presenter

  • Organized presentation.
  • Gets help.
  • Leads presentation.

“I like these suggested speaking points too,” she said. “But not all groups have four members…”

“Right,” Mrs. Washington said. “On the next page, we have four more presenter cards. Furthermore, if they have only three members, don’t use the presenter card at all. Instead, they all share that responsibility.”

Assigning roles helps kids work well together.

Assess Working Well Together

Ms. Sneed sat back and smiled. “These three simple templates will definitely improve group work in the classroom.” She sighed again – a satisfied sigh this time.

“Just one more thing,” said Mrs. Washington. She scrolled through the next few pages of the document.

“Assessment?” the mentee asked. “Really?”

Mrs. Washington shook her head. “However, I like to think of it as accountability. Actually, you may need it until kids are working well together. You can use a rubric or let them self-assess.”

Enjoy Teaching

Sitting up straight, Ms. Sneed nodded. “If I can get kids to work together well, I will enjoy teaching so much more. And you know, when the teacher’s happy, everyone is happy!”

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