Getting your Groups to Work!

Tired of groups not working? As a first year teacher I remember my principal telling me to use Cooperative Group Work – everyone is doing it, he said.  It’s good for the kids, he said.  What he didn’t tell me is how to actually get my kids to work in a group! It was a colossal failure! I turned all of my worksheets into group assignments, and then just watched one student do all the work while the others played around.  To be honest, it scared me away from group projects for years!

Then I discovered that you actually have to teach group work behavior just like any other skill.  Once I started teaching behaviors the first week of school, my groups worked amazingly well! In addition to teaching group work skills prior to any assignment, I also implemented a few different strategies to keep groups working smoothly during the project.

First – I used my Groups Work! Contractand Assessment Sheet to hold students accountable for their work within a group as well as the work they produce.  I shared this with them prior to any group work project so they were very clear on their expectations.

Then – Use the Mid-Point Check Strategies to monitor the groups, progress and learning. I used these cards to keep my students working and learning during the project.  I could spot assess and see who was learning and who was not.  It was a great strategy for formative assessment.

In addition to the cards, you can also use strategies such as Whips, Inner Outer Circle, and Sum It Up.

I also used my GroupWork Check Off Sheet to monitor different groups and their progress.  I attached this to a clip board when I walked around the room.  I could instantly see which group was getting behind in completing the steps on the project.

Finally – I used a Debrief Activity. At the end of the project, you can lead a discussion with the debrief cards and have students assess each other with the Group Assessment handout (I have made different ones to accommodate groups from 3-5).

You can find all of these in my TPT Store

Good luck on your next group project!

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