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How We Organize Ourselves - Effective Group Work

Hi Friends,

Do you use cooperative groupings in your class?  Most of us do, don't we?  We have groups for The Daily Five, Math Workshop groups, or research groups.  For today's, learner's socially constructed learning is a reality and a necessity, right?

Well, one of my  How We Organize Ourselves Unit of Inquiry (A transdisciplinary unit) focused on the central idea 'Groups are organized in order to achieve a common goal'.The most interesting line of inquiry for my students was:  'An inquiry into the different roles people can have in groups'.   During this unit, my students inquired into what makes group work effective and how could the ro'les people have help the group to succeed.

The teacher questions and the concepts included:

  • What is a group? (form)

  • Can you name a common goal of that group?  

  • What types of roles do people play in groups? (function)

  • What is leadership? (form)  

  • Why is leadership important in achieving a common goal?  (function)

  • What is needed for a group to work together well?  (perspective)

I had really loved doing this unit last year and was excited to see where the students would take it this year.  My previous class and I co-created a rubric for effective teamwork (free download) as a part of their summative assessment.

Looking to innovate

This year, my students used this rubric to evaluate their own group work.  The new students thought it was really cool to use a rubric created by last year's class.  Somehow the fact that other students had helped to create it, gave it more importance.  Anyway, they were very honest.  Through this reflection, they found out that it was common for at least one group member to not fully take part in the group and therefore not every group was successful in achieving their goal as a result.  After this realization, there was definitely more awareness, but not a quick or easy solution.  It was at this point when I entered into my own inquiry into how I, as the classroom teacher, could help the students be more successful in their cooperative learning groups. 

What I created

Why don't the students fully participate?  A frequent answer was that students just forget what they were supposed to be doing.  So, to help the students be successful, I thought I would to add a manipulative that could serve as a reminder.  Maybe its not the most creative solution.  However, my kids love to have things to hold.  If I can turn an activity into one that is hands-on or add in a manipulative, it is oh, so much more engaging to my kiddos. (Ask me about boo-boo tape and revision!)

To this end, I am pleased to report that I have just created my first paid product for TpT and Teacher's Notebook.  I designed role cards that could be used for a variety of groupings:  Leader, Writer, Fact Finder, and Speaker for example. I also added Literature Circle roles and beat the calculator cards.  There are twenty-one role cards and two different versions of each.  Check them out.

Can you relate?

How do you handle cooperative groupings?  Do you have good strategies for getting all your students to participate in group work equally?  Do you use role cards? Do you find it helps?

I would love to hear about the successes and challenges you have in your class.  Leave me a comment below and let's chat.

Thanks for reading and commenting! 

Yours in passion for education,

Kate O'Connell

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