When we are setting up groups it is useful to think about who works together. There are no hard and fast rules; you might change the groups from lesson to lesson or encourage groups to build up their experience in working together. You might encourage children to choose who they want to work with, or you may want to select the groups yourself, depending on what you want children to gain from the experience. These are some things to think about.
Things to consider:

◆ will children be more committed to task in a self selected group?

◆ will any children be isolated in a self selecting group?

◆ do we have a mix of boys and girls or single sex groups - what are the advantages and disadvantages?

◆ how often should we encourage bilingual learners to work together?

◆ will it help children to have a specific role?

◆ how many children should act as scribes? Should this rotate?

◆ is it a good idea to have a confident speaker in each group?

What are the ground rules?

Establish ground rules before the activity begins, for example:

◆ only one speaker at a time;

◆ all children’s contributions must be accepted;

◆ no racist or sexist remarks.

What size is the group?

◆ paired work will encourage all children to participate and is therefore a good introduction to larger group work;

◆ six is probably the maximum size to allow effective participation by all children, four may be better.

Will things get out of control?

◆ beginning with paired work encourages involvement and commitment to group work;

◆ children need a clear task and a clear time span in which to work;

◆ if behaviour problems occur, discuss with the children how this could be resolved.

How is the classroom organised?

How might the way the classroom is organised enhance or hinder collaboration?

◆ it may help to move the desks back for some activities;

◆ organise the desks to enable everyone to join in a group.

What do we record and how?

◆ recording could be in written form, taped group work, verbal feedback to class, role play;

◆ you might take photographs of groups working to encourage children to reflect on how the group worked together.

Reflecting on our learning

It aids the learning process for children to have opportunities to reflect together on what they have learnt, and how. We offer two stimulus sheets to support children’s own evaluation of their learning.

Children evaluating their groupwork offers prompts for small groups to think about how well they have worked together, and thought-bubbles in which they can jot down their ideas. To download a copy click here.

Children evaluating sources invites children to think about where they have got their ideas and information from, and is especially useful for groups reflecting on a process of enquiry. To download a copy click here.

This article has been adapted from the Tide~ publication, Fat felts & sugar paper ~ activities for speaking and listening about issues