Theme: Group work
Group work! Team work! We all spend so much time setting up group work because we know / are told we should. Observers love to see it in lessons BUT………. There are significant barriers to group work. For me, two of the biggest are:
Room layout – needing to reorganise desks/chairs at the beginning and end of a lesson – there is never enough time, after a normal lesson, to tidy up and get going for the next, let alone after a lesson where we have been doing teamwork!
Building independence – all very well encouraging teamwork skills but children NEED to be knowledgeable, confident and able to think independently before they can take their ideas to a group. So often the most confident/dominant pupils take over a group and the others have nothing to offer – however well we structure the group work exercise.
Today’s ideas are very short and very simple but they overcome these two barriers with no extra effort!
What to do…..
Change your room layout
I have my desks in two columns of three – yes THREEs!! Not individual, not in twos, not in fours or sixes……… I have never been into another classroom set out in threes and I cannot understand why not – it works on every level!
It gives me loads of space to teach “perform” in the middle of the room
If I have a small class of 20 (many of our lower sets are in groups of this size) I can sit them in twos with a gap between each person (if the desks were in twos there would be 15 pairs and so I would have to have some of them sitting together!) IF I want them to talk/consult each other they can easily move together.
Three is a group so this means they are already sitting in groups – no need to move furniture. ….AND they are all facing the front of the room. If I want them to work in bigger groups, one group of three simply turns round to make a group of 6.
2. Use a 1,3,6 method of building confidence/discussion/groups
Get them to think/write about your group work issue/problem/activity ON THEIR OWN and in silence. It is really important that they have formulated some ideas of their own. I always get them to put something on paper at this stage – whether it is a diagram, words, spider diagram, annotating a picture etc etc
They now SHARE ideas with the other two people in their group of three – they add to/change their ideas based on conversation and ideas coming from the others. If you have missed out the first stage they spend ages gathering their ideas/thoughts (chatting!!!) and some will be limited by the dominance of others. How often do you hear someone say something really quietly which is correct/good/original but which is completely ignored by others in the group? If it has been written down it is less likely to be ignored.
If you want to develop the activity still further they now join with the three people in front of/behind them! No moving needed (if you have a group of 30 with five rows of three on each side of the room then ONE group of three will have to move – but that is minimal compared to the whole group moving.)
You could even take it one step further and get them to then talk to the other group of three which is near them (if they combined with the group behind them first then they can talk to the group in front next.)
You now have pupils who have developed their ideas by talking to/working with 8 other people in their class – with no movement of furniture! EASY!
The group/team work will have been productive. The furniture has not been moved. No disruption. The activity (whatever it was) will have been efficient and effective for all pupils.