Problems with group work

<b> Forum for elementary education ESL/EFL teachers </b>

Moderators: Dimitris, maneki neko2, Lorikeet, Enrico Palazzo, superpeach, cecil2, Mr. Kalgukshi2

Post Reply
Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:48 am

Problems with group work

Post by eslwendy » Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:59 pm

I am usually very supportive of the concept of group work. I feel it provides learners with a chance to learn from each other. However, there are some issues that can arise that I would like to moderate. For example, when teaching a class who share a common language, I worry they will default to that language when discussing ideas because it's easier for them. Therefore, they miss out on the opportunity to practice their English skills. I also am concerned about the shy, unconfident student that uses group work to hide behind their peers, and avoid contributing to the class. Group work can often be very loud, and it would be very easy to blend into the background (I often employed this avoidance technique myself in middle school, though not as an ELL). Finally, some people (again of this I am guilty) simply prefer to work on their own. They feel they can better understand the material if they have time to concentrate on it individually. While I may understand these behaviors, I don't want them to hinder group work.

Posts: 14
Joined: Tue May 08, 2012 4:24 pm

Group work

Post by ginawirth » Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:04 pm

Group work can be tricky, especially if the students are on different proficiency and ability levels. I had my students work in centers in the beginning of the year in small groups. The small group seemed to give the less confident students the momentum to try. I found that the students who struggled with english began to try and "fit in" with the small group during the center time. They were very motivated to "play the center games". Those students who were more advanced in the activities loved helping and guiding along the other students. It was a good experience for all of us. It was not long until the students who found the center activities difficult(in September) to become the "teachers" by mid-year. Sometimes we forget that peers are the best motivators and teachers!

Sally Olsen
Posts: 1322
Joined: Thu Apr 08, 2004 2:24 pm
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

Post by Sally Olsen » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:44 pm

If you google Co-operative Learning you will find literature on how to make groups work and the pitfalls. Moderation in all things including moderation.

Brie M.
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 1:46 am

Post by Brie M. » Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:25 am

I find that group work is definitely tricking, but if you find the right balance it can be beneficial. Just like any other task in the classroom, you need to provide clear directions and expectations for group work. This can help eliminate the students speaking in their L1 or not contributing to the class. I also vary the group size so the students that would like to work independently can work with a partner instead of always working in a larger group. It is not ideal for that student but he/she may feel better in a smaller group setting.

Posts: 88
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:49 am

Re: Problems with group work

Post by longshikong » Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:03 am

eslwendy wrote:I am usually very supportive of the concept of group work.
Me too but teaching the skills of how to work cooperatively in a group is a challenge for even the best of teachers in a unilingual setting let alone in a language classroom where teachers may know little of L1 and C1 (culture 1).

I read somewhere recently that group brainstorming isn't the best way of generating the most and freshest ideas.

Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 6:31 pm

Post by andrewgessman » Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:17 pm

I think group-work has taken a much more central role in education pedagogy across the board in recent decades, and that it’s largely a good thing. I think it’s especially valuable in language-learning settings because it gives students a chance to interact with students at a similar level, demonstrate “output”, etc. However, I agree that there are many problems with it, as you’ve mentioned. The best thing we can do is be as consciencious as possible about how and when we assign group work, and especially how we compose the groups themselves. If you know your students well enough, you might avoid grouping certain students together if you can foresee them engaging in some of the problem behaviors you mentioned. Students’ ability levels, comfort levels, and personalities should be taken into account when groups are assigned, to create better group chemsitry. Think of the group as a collaboration of individuals, and take the individuals into account.

Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:23 am

Post by lip420 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:21 pm

Some students are more introverted and will benefit more from individualized activities. If you have a problem with students speaking in their native tongue then you could set up an English only rule, unless they raise their hands and ask to speak in their native lang.

Posts: 14
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 7:45 pm

Group Work

Post by TeacherScrev » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:52 am

You will always have an activity that does not appeal to all of the students in your class. However, I feel that group work is one of those strategies that need to be taught and practiced in the classroom. After all, these students will be expected to work cooperatively as adults when they are done with the public school system.

Group work is a perfect opportunity for the teacher to go around the room and check for problematic areas and/or progress. Group work gives the teacher insight into what seems to be working and where the students are struggling. Speaking in the native language is not in itself a negative thing. However, it can be difficult for the teacher to monitor (especially if the teacher doesn't speak that language). If you have a no L1 spoken in the classroom rule, then it should be established from Day 1 and addressed immediately if the students are not following the rule. If you allow the students to use their L1 as a resource, then I would require them to do some of the work in the L1. Make them responsible for writing their responses in their L1 (you can use this as physical evidence by asking a colleague familiar with the language if the students are truly working or just goofing off). They should, however, also be responsible for transferring these responses into English. You can designate these roles as part of the cooperative group activity.

Post Reply