Question: When should teachers use small groups in their classrooms?
Answer/Quote: “If the objective on a given day requires presenting a lot of new information, a lecture is probably better than small-group work. Or if teachers want students to practice some particular skill, recitation and seatwork may be better than small-group work. On the other hand, if teachers want students to compare ideas, develop a train of thought, air differences, or arrive at a consensus on some controversial issue, then the forum of small groups may be just the right setting for most students to carry on intensive conversation and discussion, especially for students too shy to say much in the larger setting of the whole class. Teachers must always remember, however, that they cannot merely put students in groups and expect them to ‘go to it’ with positive results. For group work to succeed, teachers must carefully design collaborative tasks that are interesting to students (and not just to the teacher).”
Comment: Purpose, Purpose, Purpose. And then show students how to conduct themselves in a small-group setting. What works to help the group succeed? What doesn’t help the group succeed? As the author says, the teacher can’t just say, “Get into small groups” and expect them to succeed. RayS.
Title: “Using Small Groups for Response To and Thinking About Literature.” M Nystrand, A Gamoran, and MJ Heck. English Journal (January 1993), 14-22.