The Best Skills for Cooperative Group Work in the Classroom - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide

The Best Skills for Cooperative Group Work in the Classroom

We want to motivate students, encourage active learning in the classroom while we develop critical-thinking, communication, and decision-making skills. Group work can be an effective method to do all of these things. When looking more specifically at the 21st Century Skills, (12 abilities that we want to instill in our students to prepare for careers in the Information Age) group work enables us to build critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity, and social skills. Wow! Nine of the 12 21st Century Skills can be addressed by simply using group work in the classroom! What does productive group work look like in the classroom? What does productive group work sound like in the classroom? We will be diving into student group work! 

The Best Skills for Cooperative Learning Groups 

It is imperative that in the first weeks of school that you intentionally plan and spend time working on how to work well in groups with your students. We cannot assume that our students come into our classroom with the appropriate social skills needed for productive cooperative groups. 

You want your students to be able to:

✅ listen to each other
✅ respect each other
✅ build on each others’ ideas

Things you might see when students work well in groups:

🔎 leaning in and working in the middle of the table
🔎 sticking together
🔎 following team roles

Things you might hear when students work well in groups:

👂 equal air time
👂 silence when speaker is talking
👂 asking each other a lot of questions

Model and practice

When first starting out using groups, you must have students model the correct behaviors (listed above). Have students practice working in groups. When finished, have the classroom gathered together and label specific behaviors that were aligned to the classroom expectations. 

If you requested that all of the group members lean in, praise a group specifically for leaning in and working in the middle of the table. 

By specifically labeling the correct behaviors, you are reinforcing the specific expectations for productive group work.

How can you provide support with building on each others' ideas? 

  • Begin to ask more open-ended questions that may have more than one solution.
  • Give students question stems and encourage them to ask questions within their groups.
  • Practice questioning between partners and groups.

Students love using these sentence stems in the classroom. 

Using Accountable Talk in the Math Classroom

Supporting language and vocabulary development is crucial in the math classroom. Educators need to explicitly teach and pay attention to the quality of talk in the classroom. English Language Learners will be supported, as well as ALL learners. This resource will help you keep mathematicians engaged in math conversations as they become proficient in "speaking math."

I hope this post inspires you to incorporate group work in your classroom. If you are interested in using my math sentence starters for questioning in group work, you can find them in my TpT shop!

What would you add to this list? What do you find the most difficult part to practice? 

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