In my classroom, I love to have my students work together in groups. Working in groups is fun for the students, allows for student interaction, and fosters great discussions.
As teacher though, we know that working in groups *can* be loud, chaotic and overwhelming. After a few years of craziness while working in groups, I decided to wise up a bit and come up with a few ideas that might tone down the crazy and amp up the discussions.
1. Set a timer.
The students need to know how long they can discuss (and are expected to discuss) or they will get off task or end the discussion in 3 seconds flat. I love using online timers, but I do always have other timers available in case technology is not working that day! Yikes! Here is a timer I purchased from Amazon a few years back called the Time Tracker Mini. I love it! I use it multiple times a day for many different things! If you want to know more about it, check out my Red Light, Green Light blog post!
2. Use the Post-It Method (multiple choice option)
I love the the Post-It Method! If you have multiple choice answers, this method works great. Simply pass out Post-Its (usually a stack) to each group. Have each student in the group write what they think the answer is (on a Post-It), then have the students compare and justify at their table. The thing is, students can really have great discussions about multiple choice questions too, we just don’t give them the chance.
I have also even taken that a step further and assigned a letter to each corner of the room and the group must justify and agree on an answer, then pick the corner of the room that matches their answer! Note: Do not allow groups to pick a corner until all groups are ready and they move at the same time! Otherwise, you will have people going to the corner the first group chose!
3. The Buzzer Method (a discussion option)
If the students have topics that will take some discussion and you would like to know which group comes up with the answer (or an answer) first…these buzzers are amazing!
I really love using them when we are trying to find text evidence!! I give the students a question, and tell them to find the text evidence to support their answer! The students LOVE this! I ordered my buzzers from Amazon. They are from the company Learning Resources and are called The Learning Resources Answer Buzzers. These are one of the best purchases I have ever made for my classroom. I used to try to have the students just shoot their hands up, but these buzzers all have different sounds, so it is easy for me to tell who buzzed in first. They also are not loud and obnoxious. Win Win!
Group work is engaging for students and helps the teacher hear valuable discussion. Some of the best thoughts I have heard come from a student is through group collaboration time. I hope this post helps make group time a little less chaotic and a little more enlightening in your classroom!
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