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Managing Large Classes with Group Work

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1 Managing Large Classes with Group Work
Georgeanne Cooper, Director, Teaching Effectiveness Program Leslie Opp-Beckman, Technology Coordinator, Instructor, American English Institute

2 Topics of Discussion Definitions Pros and Cons Timelines
Mixed Ability Classes and Groups Tips for Assigning Students to Groups Student Accountability in Groups Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Participate Assessing Group Work Activities

3 Definitions Ideal vs. “large” language classroom
Classroom management (managing student behavior, managing class activities and learning, managing your workload) “Traditional” teaching vs. cooperative learning or group work Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

4 Pros You can design group work to take only a few minutes or to take an entire class session. You can actively engage all students (do not allow individuals to dominate groups). You can form groups to take advantage of various skill levels. Group more capable students with struggling students, and encourage peer teaching. Group work can help build relationships between students and help them form study groups. Learning group skills is a valuable asset for being successful in the workplace.

5 Cons Some group work requires a significant amount of time and may not fit conveniently into a lesson plan. Occasionally there are conflicts with group members that must be resolved. In some cases it is difficult to determine accountability. More capable members are tempted to “take over” the activity to ensure a good grade. It can be difficult to design a good group activity that keeps students fully engaged.

6 Timelines Group activities can be designed to fit into a variety of time allotments from two or three minutes to an entire class session. Be sure to let students know how much time they will have for an activity. If the activity will take more than a few minutes, remind groups periodically how much time they have left. If the activity is divided into parts, remind students (when they have two minutes left for a part) that they must finish and prepare to go on to the next part.

7 Mixed Ability Classes and Groups
There are several ways to group students when there are mixed abilities within the groups. You may want to group by ability and give those groups different tasks that support success with each group. There may also be advantages to mixing abilities and teaching more capable students how to teach others rather than doing the work for them.

8 Tips for Assigning Students to Groups
Group size should be appropriate to what you are asking students to do. When students work in pairs or threes and abilities are not a main concern, you can group students quickly by counting off into groups of three from where they are sitting in the room. If you want students to be in particular groups according to abilities you can do one of the following…

9 Tips for Assigning Students to Groups
Post the groups on the blackboard before students enter the room. Pass back homework with a number on the back. When it is time to get into groups tell the students to look for the number on the back of their homework. If you use this method, have the areas where students with the same group number will assemble clearly marked. Count off by the number of groups you want and then ask each group to assemble in a specific place in the room

10 Activity #1: Two (or Three) Heads are Better than One
This is an activity using the theme or topic “Holidays around the World.” We will start with one of the upcoming holidays in the USA, Christmas. Divide a piece of paper in half so that you have 2 columns. We will give you the topics for each column. Work alone. Take one or two minutes and quickly write as many words as you can in the first column by yourself. (Note that pronunciation and spelling are issues to address at some point, but are not the focus of this particular activity.)

11 Student Accountability in Groups
The best group activities are those which truly require a group to accomplish the task. Have the group produce something together that is evidence for their efforts. If the task has several parts, ask groups to divide the responsibilities among group members and produce something (a written document) which holds them accountable for the task.

12 Student Accountability in Groups
If you have time to ask groups about their activity, call on someone in the group who tends to struggle rather than someone who is always able to complete a task. Tell groups beforehand that you will be calling on different members and that it is their job to be sure everyone in the group is prepared to answer.

13 Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Participate
Discuss the guidelines for productive group behavior. Group work gives students a chance to learn how to share leadership roles, develop good listening skills, help and support one another, and teach each other.

14 Activity #2: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
You will see a picture on the same topic “Holidays around the World, Christmas in the USA.” We will look at three levels of peer or group teaching activities, from easy to more complex: Building vocabulary Creating noun phrases and verb phrases Writing a short narrative or story

15 Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Participate
As groups continue to work together they can become more productive. This is the advantage of keeping students in the same working groups. You can also change groups if it is important to have students working with a variety of other students. How you group students and how long they stay in the same groups depends on what you are trying to accomplish with group work.

16 Assessing Group Work Activities
If you are new to doing group work, take it slow. Keep your groups small (pairs or threes) and keep the activities simple and short. Structure the activities and ask groups to show you what they have accomplished in writing. Be sure you have students doing enough individual work to understand their levels of knowledge and skills so that their grades accurately reflect their effort. If you are grading students on their group work, credit for the group activity should never bring an individual student’s grade down. It should only add to their individual scores.

17 Assessing Group Work Activities
If students are turning in a written record of their group activity, ask them to sign their names and give a brief sentence or two about their contribution to the task. You can also ask students who have been working together in a group over a period of time to “rate” each other’s performance. This should be done in confidence and each rating should be accompanied by an explanation for the rating.

18 Managing Large Classes with Group Work
Georgeanne Cooper, Director, Teaching Effectiveness Program Leslie Opp-Beckman, Technology Coordinator, Instructor, American English Institute

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