To prevent groups from veering away from the topic, set instructional and behavioral expectations, model, practice, and monitor engagement by circulating around the class during the activity.
Establish small group expectations to help students work effectively, maximize classroom time, and master the learning goals the teacher has set.
Try keeping groups small (approximately 2-5 students) and minimize behavioral problems.
Consider using this process for peer revision of writing assignments. Provide questions that students can ask one another about their compositions.
When thinking about ELL students, Let’s Talk provides teachers clear guidelines to facilitate a structured academic conversation that enables students to monitor and build understanding. The steps in this process include:
Anytime throughout instruction, the teacher can pose a question or problem and invite students to think about it for a minute. Then the teacher will ask the students to pair up with a partner. They are given another minute to share their ideas with each other. The teacher calls on volunteer pairs to share with the whole group.
When grouping, divide students into small groups of 4 to 6 people. Appoint one person as the recorder. Pose an open-ended question and allow wait time. Have members of the team share responses one at a time. The conversation may flow in a clockwise manner. The student next to the recorder begins and each student in the group shares out a response until time is called. The recorder scribes the responses of each group member to share out or recall later in the lesson.
Arrange students in groups of 3 to 5 (this is a student’s “home” group). Each group member of the “home” group is assigned a unique concept or learning material. Students meet with members from other groups who are assigned the same concept/learning material (referred to as the “expert” group) and are charged with internalizing as much as they can about their given concept/learning material. After mastering the material, the experts return to the “home” group and teach the material to their group members.
Students gather in a circle to have a structured, student-centered discussion with each other and the teacher. This practice builds a sense of community, develops problem solving skills, strengthens bonds between student and teacher, and provides an opportunity for students to practice their listening, speaking, and interpersonal skills.