English teaching strategies for organising group work

This article, English teaching strategies for organising group work, is part of EBC’s strategies for teaching English series.

In this article we present a list of things that teachers should consider for addition into their portfolio of English teaching strategies for organising group work.

Before continuing, I’d just like to highlight one thing. In some classes you will probably use newspaper articles or other written material as learning aids. If you do and the article contains sophisticated language, MAKE SURE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE DIFFICULT WORDS AS WELL! Read the article before you go to class, identify all the words that you think may cause problems and write down what they mean. If you don’t, and someone asks you what (for example) “peregrination” means, you will look silly if you say you don’t know or have to look in the dictionary. BE PREPARED!

English teaching strategies for organising group work 1:
Your initial presentation of the activity

  • Instructions that are given at the beginning of the group work exercise are crucial.
  • Your students must understand exactly what they have to do.
  • Use group activity tasks that are easily described.
  • Use simple, clear, concise and precise language.
  • Give your students clear instructions before giving out materials and dividing the class into groups.
  • Make sure that they understand the instructions by running through an example before the group work starts.
  • Anticipate what language will be needed, and have a preliminary quick review of appropriate grammar or vocabulary.
  • If you feel it is necessary, put the important words/grammar constructions on the board or use handouts.
  • Tell your students what the STOP signal is or the time limit.

English teaching strategies for organising group work 2:
Running the activity

Your job during the activity is to monitor and guide each group. You may also contribute if it is necessary.

If you need to contribute:

  • give positive criticism and support,
  • help students who are having difficulty,
  • keep students using English,
  • tactfully regulate participation if some students are over-dominant and others silent.

English teaching strategies for organising group work 3:
Ending the activity

  • When time is up, give a clear signal to the end the task as per your previously stated STOP signal.
  • Try to finish the activity while the students are still enjoying it and interested, or only just beginning to flag.
  • Do not let the activity drag on so there are groups doing nothing whilst others are still working.
  • If it is obvious that it took less time than you thought, stop the work and move on.

English teaching strategies for organising group work 4:
Get feedback from your students

After you’ve reviewed (read, watched or listened to) each group’s work and provided your input, you should get feedback from your students.

Here are a few examples of types of feedback:

  • have a peer review of the results from each group,
  • give your students the right solution,
  • listen to and evaluate their suggestions,
  • pool their ideas on the board,
  • display materials the groups have produced.

Your feedback objective is to express appreciation of the effort that has been invested and positively criticise the results.

Save all feedback (yours and your students) because it can be re-used as input for other tasks.

I don’t recommend that you ask your students if they thought that it was a useful exercise. The reason is that you are the teacher. If you pose questions that could imply your doubts about the methods you are using, your students may begin to question your ability to teach them.

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