We know that group work can help students develop an important skill set that is essential in the real world.
However, we also know that group work doesn't always go off without a hitch. There's always one group that doesn't get along and another that's more interested in discussing their latest Pokemon achievements.
You get the picture.
So I have a little group tip that is quick and easy AND enhances productivity. The kids love it, and it's also the perfect remedy to many of the problems associated with group work.
Long Term Group Project Tip
When working on a longer term group project, I always require groups to immediately assign themselves a name that is associated with the assignment. For example, during a week long mystery project, one group called themselves the Sherlock Holmies, while another was the Scooby Doo Mystery Crew, and a third was called the Poe-fect Alibi Finders.
Within minutes of being assigned the group, kids had to use their knowledge of mysteries to invent a name, and every group member had to agree on it. They even made fancy name signs for the tables.
Whenever we do this, I refer to the group by their name for the duration of the assignment. It helps establish a shared identity and serves as a reminder that they are ALL responsible members of the group.
In addition to creating an instant buy-in to the project, having to come up with a name serves to focus every student. They must use the academic vocabulary and immediately function as a group. The act of establishing their shared identity gives them a sense of camaraderie and unity.
Not to mention it could be funny as heck. The kids get such a kick out of it, and truth be told, so do I. There's something oddly satisfying about calling out "Will all the Red Herring Marples come to the front? It's time to present your findings!"
Group Work for Short Term Assignments
When we complete a short one or two day lesson, I will sometimes create the names myself. For example, we had groups of three for a vocabulary review. Each group had to choose one person to take on each "job" on the chart.
Then we jigsawed, and all of the elucidators went to one table, while the lexiconnoisseurs went to another, and so on. Each group perfected their answers, becoming the experts for a specific portion of the review.
When the kids felt confident with their area of expertise, they went back to their original table to share. In this way, all students experienced the review, either by "teaching" others or interacting with the teacher/expert.
A positive group experience can help kids learn the subject matter, as well as valuable interpersonal skills. And if your kids enjoy this little tip as much as mine do, you'll be thrilled with the outcome!