Group work is common in today’s classrooms, but it's all too easy for things to get out of hand. Learn some techniques to keep students busy and on-task while they are working together.
For group work to be successful, the entire class has to be well behaved and on-task.Grouping does not work if students look at it as time to spend chatting with their buddies.Your classroom management situation can deteriorate quickly if steps are not taken in advance to ascertain that students know what is expected from them behaviorally.Following are several classroom management techniques to prepare your students for group work.
1) Be Proactive
Before you do any group work, tell students exactly what type of behavior is expected.Tell them exactly how loudly they should speak, whether or not they are allowed to leave their desks, signs that will signal the end of the activity, and anything else you want them to do or not do.
After students know what is expected from them, practice.Put them in groups, and have them speak to each other in the tones of voices you expect.Keep in mind that your students are practicing how to participate in groups; this is their assignment. Now is not the time to teach a lesson on verbs.I would practice once a day for a week to make sure your students are ready to actually participate in group work.
3) Establish Consequences
Before you enter in to a group activity make sure your students know the consequences for not following directions.I like to make the consequence something directly related to the group work.They might have to complete the entire project on their own, for instance, if they cannot behave in group.
4) Behavior Contracts
You might want to consider having students sign behavior contracts before starting group work.You could put into writing what you go over at the beginning of group time. (See being proactive above.)
5) Group Self-Review
Have group members review their work as a team.You might want to ask how each member contributed, if each person did their fair share, how they think they worked together, what they did well, where they could improve, etc.Give this information at the beginning of the activity so each student is aware that he/she will be evaluated by his or her peers.
Have signals that will tell your students when the activity is drawing to an end, that the noise level is getting too loud, etc.You can blink the lights, ring a bell, whatever works for you.I would recommend that you do not use your voice; you will be hard to hear when students are in conversation with each other.
7) Circulate and Supervise
This is not the time to work on lesson plans or answer a quick email.Be sure to walk around and listen in on conversations to see what students are working on and whether or not they understand the activity.
You might choose to use all or just a few of these classroom management techniques. Either way, the key to successful group work activity is behavior managment while students work together.