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Group Work

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Joined: 15 May 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sewell, NJ

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 12:08 am    Post subject: Group Work Reply with quote

Group work requires students collaborating with each other and using self-initiated language to complete a specific task. There are definitely benefits to including group work activities when working with ELL's. Group work promotes interactive language, creates a more comfortable environment to increase the willingness for a student to share ideas and take action, holds students accountable for complete the role they have in a group instead of being invisible in a larger group, and helps teachers to individualize instruction. Teachers can assign groups and aid the instruction of students at all different levels. Smaller groups can help increase the reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities of students. There are many benefits to group work. What I would like to know is what are the cons to using group activities in the context of an ESL classroom? For example, how do you avoid ELL's using their native language in groups?
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Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Posts: 82
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rozanna, I teach university students in Taiwan and I face frequent problems with doing group work. Here are a few common problems:

- it's hard to monitor their work (pick up emergent language, spot errors, hear if they are speaking English or Chinese) with a large class (sometimes it just sounds like one big roar!)

- some students don't like doing group work and feel like they're wasting time

- social loafing is common (when students goof off because they know others in their group will do the work for them)

- with large classes, it's hard to construct a task that appeals to everyone and is not too easy or too hard for all the students

- some students prefer other types of learning (individual work, teacher-centered work)
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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2012 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you Google Co-operative Learning you will find many, many studies on how to teach using group work and how to overcome the difficulties. Like anything, using groups exclusively is probably not a great idea. You want to mix it up with individual work of course. There are tons of ways to use groups from pairs to whole class work or projects. There are answers to every problem. It just like anything and you have to teach it for it to be successful. I usually demonstrate with one group in front of the class before I let them off off on their own. You can make one person responsible for making sure that each person has a turn to speak and so on. I usually start out in pairs and work up from there and monitor the groups. You usually know which groups aren't working and can change the groups. But socializing while working is part of the ordinary workplace and you need that to make a group work successfully so they don't have to be on task 100% of the time. If they are fooling around in English, you know you have been successful. If they are translating for one another, that is success too. If they are speaking their own language, they are learning something as well - that their level is not high enough or they don't want to learn English or they don't know enough about the subject to speak in English and those are all talking points to continue.
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