As group work in schools has become more prominent in education, teachers are developing their curriculum by not only incorporating more group work but also focusing on it. Group work is important, it gives students the opportunity to learn from each other, teaches them communication skills and helps them develop interpersonal relationship skills.
However putting students into groups is not as easy as saying “Class! Please get into groups of four.” Even if this goes smoothly without anyone getting upset or arguing over which group they’re going to go in, sometimes the groups need to be more specific depending on the task.
These are some different ways of forming groups and when you might like to to use each method:
This is the “Class! Please get into groups of four” type of forming groups. This will be easy or hard depending on your class. The main problems are that students can get left out of their friend group or get no group at all. Although this can be a lesson in resilience for students, it is important to be aware of any issues you need to solve quickly. This could mean you re-organise a group or tell a group that a certain student is going to be in their group. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on and intervening when necessary, making sure the students know that although they can choose which group they’re in, if you make a group change then the decision is final. Another recommendation with this is to set a time limit and when the time runs out you will make any final group forming decisions. This stops the students from having too much time to discuss groups in depth, which can lead to arguments. Student choice groups are good for fun group games they like to be with their friends for, social activities such as class party’s or discussion groups and activities that involve creative ideas with a set focus. (this could be something like making a movie, where friends with similar interests are going to be more likely to enjoy and be motivated to pursue similar ideas)
Ability Based Groups:
This is a widely used method of putting students into groups, which involve grouping students with other students of similar abilities. Of course it depends on what the topic is, if it’s chance and data you group the students with an advanced knowledge together (who can workout the chance of a die landing on a 6 then a 3 then a 4, in that order) and the students who still need to understand the basic concepts together (still learning what the chance of a coin landing on heads is). Then form groups in the middle range. The difficulty with this is knowing where to put the students in between two groups. I recommend just choosing a group for them knowing that you can move them to a different group if necessary, even if you place them in a group based on who they work better with. Ability based groups are good to use when you are focusing on a specific concept where the level of understanding in your class is very wide.
Mixed ability groups:
This is my preferred method of putting students into groups. These are groups formed by the teacher with a specific focus on getting as wide a level of abilities in to one group as possible. The more advanced students can help the more developing students, this helps the developing students through the one on one guidance and also helps the advanced students by cementing their knowledge and developing their understanding of the ideas in a way necessary to explain it to other people. Mixed ability groups can be used for a range of learning activities with a specific focus, I primary use them for literacy working groups and maths based activity groups. Mixed ability groups are also a good group to use for quiz games.
These are simply groups that have a random element in their creation, it could be drawing the name out of a hat or it could be playing a game or activity designed to get students into groups. These groups are good for game based activities where abilities are not the focus, discussion groups and getting to know you games. Davidbrowngames