Doing group work in the elementary classroom gives students opportunities to work and learn from others. Collaboration is also an essential skill for 21st Century Learning. With that said, I’m sure you’ve seen ineffective group work. Unproductive group work looks like a hot mess! Students don’t engage with one another, the classroom is chaotic, and some don’t even know what they’re doing.
Today, I’m going to share four tips for group success in the elementary classroom. These tips are essential for having constructive group projects or work.
Have clear objectives
Before putting your students in groups, make sure that your objective is clear so that when you do place them in groups, students know the common goal. Once students are in their groups to remind them of their purpose. Then give students time to think about and discuss their plans.
You can facilitate conversations in groups by using speaking and listening prompts. These prompts explicitly teach students how to collaborate constructively. Take turns so that each group member has an opportunity to be both a listener and a speaker.
These conversation starters guide students in having meaningful conversations with one another. There are 12 cards in this free download. Place them on a binder ring, and keep a set for each group.
Set ground rules
STEM is an exciting subject, but we often get so excited that we forget to set ground rules before doing group work. Neglecting rules leads to chaos in our groups. To avoid this, we need to set ground rules before working in groups.
I like the rules: be kind, be safe, and be responsible. These three pillars encompass everything we do in our classroom. But, I also use a conflict resolution anchor chart (thanks to the brilliant Jen Jones). We use this chart to settle conflicts. We also discuss the time students will be in their groups, expectations, and volume level in groups.
Assign defined rolls
Assigning clear and defined roles helps your students understand what they need to be doing at that moment. Doing so will help you set expectations for your students, which avoids conflict.
Roles are like jobs. What jobs are necessary for STEM? That is up to you and what needs to be done in your classroom to complete collaborative tasks.
The following are suggestions for basic group structure:
- The materials manager gathers, organizes, and guides the use of materials.
- The reporter records the team’s thoughts and reports on the final project to the class.
- The guide walks the team through the steps, keeps track of time, and they encourage the team to try again.
- The captain leads and guides other students and their roles.
Use a performance rubric
Finally, we use a performance rubric. A performance rubric helps students see and know expectations. We review this performance rubric when setting ground rules. I like using this because it holds them accountable for their actions while they are working independently. I do not ask students to rate each other based on their performance because it encourages favoritism, and it almost always produces conflict in our classroom.
For tips on creating successful centers in your classroom, check out my post here!