My Go-To Strategy To Keep Students On-Task In Group Work
Sometimes the things that have the biggest impact in the classroom are simple. small. and easy.
And this little, no-prep strategy for group work packs a mean punch!
Because we all know even the most amazing group work activity can turn into a raging dumpster fire if even 25% of students get off-task, become disruptive, and sabotage the whole thing.
But getting students to be just a little more focused and a little more on-task it can really amazing results.
So, before you release students for group work, ask them to create a "Group Work Goal." Here's how it works:
After explaining the task, hand out post-its or little index cards to each student and ask them to reflect on how they usually perform in group work. Ask them what is one thing they could do better that would help themselves and their groups be successful. Tell them to write down their "Group Work Goal" on the post-it or index card.
Simple right? But thats why it works!
The thing is, students often know what they struggle with and where they need to grow. And rather than you telling them what you want them to work on and improve, this instead empowers students to set their own goals. This shows you trust them and they are so much more likely to put in serious effort to meet their goals since it came from them.
Once students get into their groups you can monitor and support them as usual.
But say, Shauna is off-task, disruptive, or walking around the room disrupting other students. Call her over with her post-it. Rather than scold her, ask her what her goal was for the group work. You might respond, "Oh, well I notice you are not really on-task and helping the team right now. Is there anything I can do to help you with your goal b/c I want you to do your best?"
Chances are she will decline your help and get back on task, but you have just demonstrated that you are not just the authority figure in the room looking to administer punishments and tell students what they need to be doing, but a partner and mentor whose is working to help students meet their goals and be successful.
Though it might seem only subtly different than just the typical scenario where the teacher calls Shauna to your desk, asks her why she is off task, and tells her to get back to work and help her team, the difference is huge.
Improving Group Work & Growth Mindset For Students
Thats why I think “Group Work Goals'' is such a powerful strategy that can really help students stay on task during group work and perform at their utmost ability. Doing this all year will really help students understand that in your room they are empowered to set their own goals, that you care about helping them achieve those goals and grow to be a better person, and that means everything to students.
Then, at the end of the group work activity, maybe as an exit pass, ask students to reflect on their goal and how well they did in meeting it. Have them write down their reflection and if you want, they can score themselves out of ten as well. Ask a few students to share out loud how they did and how they could improve even more next time.
Fostering a Growth Mindset
This normalizes a growth-mindset that values improvement over than perfection. This little task shows students that your class is a safe space where students are encouraged to grow but not punished for struggling.
This really helps my students perform much better in group work assignments while also improving the culture in my room. Its one of the smallest, big things I do as a teacher.
And I hope it helps you in your class. And if you have a similar strategy, I would love to hear it! Im always hungry for new strategies and activities to help students excel. Email me back or hit me on social media (linked below).