Group work or partner work can be great… when it’s great. So, how can you help ensure it’s a productive, beneficial, and fun(!!!) experience for you and your students? Start with these 11 terrific tips from middle and high school TpT Teacher-Authors:

Choose the Groups Yourself

“I taught algebra to remedial students and pre-calculus to honors students. The best work is accomplished when I choose the groups, which I plan the night before. My formula is simple: two introverts and an extrovert. (The extrovert will get shyer, and the introverts will open up a little more. It’s great when they don’t know each other well, because then they have nothing to talk about except for math.)”- Janet Knox

Or Try Mixing It Up

“My best advice would be to ‘mix it up.’ Try many different strategies to get students engaged. One day choose groups, the next day let students choose. One day group students based on ability, the next day try them based on mixed ability. One day group students based on birthdays, the next day based on shoe size. Keep it different and varied! I find that students enjoy classrooms where they can’t guess what is going to happen that day — so keep them guessing!” – Mr Educator – A Social Studies Professional

Experiment With Pairs

“I prefer paired work over group work since there always seems to be one person who sits back and lets the others do the work.” – Just Add Students

Ask for a Name

“When students are working in larger groups or on bigger assignments, I like to foster a sense of camaraderie within each group. I ask the group members to designate a name for themselves that’s related to the assignment. Then I use those names to address the groups during the unit.  For example, while we were working on a mystery unit, I had groups called The Sherlock Homies, Blue’s Clues Kids, and The Scooby Doo Crew. The resulting projects were spectacular, and I attributed it in part to the sense of community within each group. It was also a lot of fun; in fact, it took a few tries before I could call on The Sherlock Homies with a straight face :)” – Darlene Anne

Establish Clear Expectations

“Grouping can be so awesome and so insane at the same time. I’m sure to establish very clear expectations about grouping beforehand — like ‘When you get in your group, you are to give everyone in your group a chance.’ This takes a lot of practice. I do a number of group work lessons at the very beginning of the year that encourage problem-solving and how to handle a difficult group member.” – Smith Science and Lit

Explain, Explain, Explain

“Model the assignment or explain the assignment thoroughly. The benefits: students know exactly what to do, and it should cut down on the questions. This will free you up to monitor them, assess them, and assist where you need to. – KayCee’s Creations

Assign Each Group Member a Task

“Pairs and groups work fine in high school, but each student in the group must have a specific assigned task to do. Instead of telling a group to create propaganda for Great Britain during World War I, I specifically spell out what each group member must do. Each student creates a piece of the larger product. This helps to ensure that students stay on task and minimizes distractions. It also prevents one student from doing all of the work for the group.” – History Gal

Try Google Drive

“I love using Google Drive for group work for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that it allows me to supervise the group more effectively than regular group work does. I will assign the students to groups and give them a task. They use the chat option on Google Drive to have their discussion and then complete the assignment on a document. Each group will share their docs with me, and I can then drop into the conversation and see what’s happening. It’s very clear who is contributing or not, as well as who might be dominating the group. I can nudge and suggest and steer them in different directions.”  – Room 213

Keep a Log

“I always had a log of the groups or pairs (and the students in each). As I circulated around the room, I would write notes as to what individual students were doing and note the progress of groups. I’d ask questions and write the responses on the log, too. Later, when I’d see the group again, I could refer to my notes and make comments referring back to the original remarks and add more notes. This left the students with the feeling that what they were doing was important, and I was aware of their progress. They weren’t literally on their own. I’m convinced this caused them to take their group work more seriously. My Civil War Battles: Tri-fold Research Report resource is one in which I suggest partnerships.” – Arlene Manemann

Encourage Student Self-Reflection

“I always include a component called a ‘step-back’ in which students take time on their own to write responses and reflect on their group experience. It’s key to have some form of assessment to measure if the together time achieved my goals.” – Julie Faulkner

Have Fun

Have fun and don’t stress out if something isn’t working. Make adjustments as needed to model problem solving for your students. – Positively Pre-Algebra Plus