Making Groups Work

I use quite a bit of collaborative group work in my teaching.  Monday I was sorting the other class into inquiry groups to end our unit on Greece and Rome.  Because they had already learned about Greece I decided to have them focus on Rome.   Sometimes I sit with students and brainstorm a list of topics but, because I don’t know these students as well as my regular class, I pre-selected a variety of topics, gave a short description, and asked them to rank them in order of interest.

Flash to me sorting stacks of paper.  Usually, I try to give every student their first choice.  Then I make adjustments based on the students, previous groupings, personalities, and other factors. However,  I realized I still didn’t know that much about how this group of students works together.  Yikes! I decided it would be okay though.  I believe any group of students can learn to work together so I started pulling some lessons that I might teach them in the next week or so.

  • Laying ground-rules: having students decide what their group work will look and sound like.
  • Making a work plan: planning out what they need to do and who will do it.
  • Building on strengths: helping them understand what strengths they bring to a small group.
  • Disagreeing Agreeably: A lesson that I can never teach enough times.

I may not have grouped the students ideally, but sometimes those random groups can be the best ones.  Every student got the topic they wanted to study so at least I know they are interested and invested in diving into Ancient Rome!

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