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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Group settings in the classroom . Is it beneficial?

Group settings in the classroom . Is it beneficial?

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In the classroom it sometimes is hard to keep focus. Having group settings within the classroom can be beneficial in somecases. With a group setting not only do the student have the oppurtunity to help and discuss with each other, the group inspire each other and their grades will show proof of their work as a group and and a whole . Any comments regarding group settings in the classroom?

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Comments (22)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

I love grouping kids so much that I replaced my desks with tables. Best thing in the world. Cooperative learning is the way to go!! Now only if the government would do the same. Instead of pitting teachers against each other with merit pay, provide some tables for us to work together. It's elementary my dear watson. Thanks for the post!

Here's a site on CL.

ruth burrell's picture

We are teaching our 4th graders through project based learning and round tables are a definite benefit; the students can move around near each other if they choose (to view a laptop) or just have really good discussions. I have them take everything off the table so they can see each other.

Mary H.'s picture

Setting up a classroom to be conducive and safe for all students to learn at high levels should be the first step a teacher takes when preparing their classroom. Assigning students to tables by their diverse abilities is a good start. I have desks in my room, but I group them together to make tables. I usually put 4-5 desks at each group that consist of one high performing student, two average performing students, and one low-performing student. I include much peer assistance in my teaching and the having students grouped this way really helps with this concept.

Each table has a different name that the students change according to the month. For example, in October, I had 5 tables that were named: skeleton, pumpkin, Frankenstein, vulture, and cat. Since these groups are collaborative and ever-changing, I let the students pick out the name of their table and make one large collaborative picture that is hung above their table.

I also change the students groups every three to four weeks to not only keep the groups fresh, but to let students experience each other's new ways of thinking. I understand that some teachers do not like to put students in groups due to the fact that many socialize and become off-task. I believe that if you model and show the behavior you expect from your students that they will understand and respect the idea of collaborative learning and being within a group. I follow the Tribe way of thinking... Check it out. Hopefully, it is helpful for you!

Ashleigh Gibbons's picture
Ashleigh Gibbons
First Grade Teacher from Aiken, South Carolina

I love using groups within my classroom. I feel that using groups enables students to learn so much more because they are able to bounce ideas off of one another. I plan lessons where I allow the groups time to discuss and expand their knowledge through collaboration. Cooperative learning allows struggling students to feel successful because they are working with others to achieve a particular goal. I know that when students are working in groups they can get loud at times, but I feel as long as they are staying on task then they should be able to talk and share as long as they are not disrupting other groups.

Sal Vascellaro's picture
Sal Vascellaro
Graduate Faculty at Bank Street College of Education in New York City

Group learning, as is any method, reflects what we want to see happen in our classrooms. Having taught children of different ages for many years and now working with teachers have shown just how group learning can offer the forum for children to think together, pool their ideas, and extend their thinking. But working in groups doesn't come naturally to all children. Many times I have seen group work fail or yield little. What seemed to be missing in these cases was a process for productive group work. In my recent book, OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND INTO THE WORLD, I show how teachers can develop a working sense of community in their classroom, even with children who seem hard to teach.
Sal Vascellaro

MrsMRoom405's picture
5th Grade Teaching in St. Charles, IL

The first day of school, my students know they will be working in groups. Their groups are formed within the first week. These groups are actually called teams and students create team names and flags and participate in team building activities throughout the year. I have found that when students have a "core" group I get the most bang for my buck in terms of high quality work and positive collaboration skills. Everyone will still mingle to work, but they always come back to their core group for reflection and presenting their new learning.
I have the groups develop their own group norms and consequences - they can be pretty harsh on themselves. Every once in a while competitive natures come out and we address those issues as a class.
Students must work in groups - this is the only way to learn how to work with people who are different from us. They should be learning these skills earlier in life. Even as an educator with my own classroom, I do an awful lot of collaborating with my colleagues. Collaboration skills need to be developed and this is a great time for kids to be practicing that.

Bkeller's picture
4th grade teacher southern California

I also use cooperative groups. My problem is I have many more lows than highs or averages. Any suggestions?

Venieta McLeod's picture

Our entire school has been Kagan trained, so cooperative learning is an integral part of all we do. The grouping challenge is different with every class, but this one can usually be overcome this way:
1) Group your kids lo, lower-mid, higher-mid, hi
2) Hopefully you can put a hi or hi-mid in each group.
3) If you are still a bit short, look for low-mid kids who are hard workers, over-achievers, good leaders.
And don't give up, even if the first arrangement doesn't work!

Matthew Gudenius's picture
Matthew Gudenius
Teacher, Computer Programmer / Engineer, and Educational Technologist

Not every child is an extrovert, and not every task is well-suited to "group work" as it has been defined. In fact, very few are. In the "real world", even though we collaborate and work in teams on a regular basis, we rarely do so like the model of group tables in classrooms. That is really only done when we have conferences, meetings, etc. The bulk of our work we do independently, but with support networks and channels of communication open to get information from, or provide information (or goods) to, others in our team as necessary -- not forced, not in the same physical space.

What I have encountered both in my youth (I always dreaded and hated group work at school) and as a teacher has been that invariably there would be members of the group that did nothing and could coast by so long as the rest of the group picked up the slack -- and then there would be the ones picking up the slack. (Usually me, because I didn't want to be penalized just because of someone else's laziness or incompetence.) This is unfair both to the go-getters that carry the team, and to the slackers who are the most harmed by the situation.

I HAVE seen great results from partners/pairs, which allows collaboration without having so many people that someone "falls through the cracks" or gets left out; I arrange all of my students in partner/pair teams for think-pair-share and collaborative work tasks.

IF a project or task calls for multiple roles (such as a filmmaking project I did with my students), I survey them for both interests and desires of roles, and try to assign very specific tasks accordingly; on the other hand, sometimes I simply make them rotate roles so they are exposed to all of the different types of tasks (after all, perhaps they don't know what they are good at or like doing until they try it.)

I also like using groups occasionally for discussions/brain-storming -- but protocols must be in place to allow (and ensure) a voice for everyone, and it tends to work best in non-product, no-grade, low-stress situations.

But overall I have seen the trend for "collaborative learning" and "group tables" to be just that -- a trend, with very little actual statistical evidence of academic benefits, while costing many headaches in management of both time/transitions and behaviors.

Certainly no one is an island and we must learn to collaborate and communicate, but I think that works just as well in pairs (if you want to spread the variety of interactions, simply reassign to new pairings)

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