5 Pro Tips to Manage Students Working in Groups

By: Admin 08 April, 2017

When students are asked to work in groups, it is an invitation for engagement and, potentially, for chaos! Here are five tips that can help encourage productivity while working together.


  1. Be clear about what to do



There’s nothing more frustrating than launching group task and seeing ten hands in the air and hearing students complain to one another, "What are we supposed to do?"

If possible, provide crystal clear, detailed electronic or paper-based directions to each student in the group. Anticipate potential questions and areas of confusion by using a checklist format.

Consider instituting a "1-2-3, Then Me" format in which students get one minute to read the directions silently, two minutes to discuss the directions with one another or with other groups, and three minutes to plan their approach to the task before they can ask you for assistance.





  1. Production should be the result



Do not put students together in a group to just ‘discuss’. Ask them to produce something that the teacher can check at the end of the class. Products should require all group members' participation or contributions. This might involve a graffiti-like poster in the middle of the table on which everyone records ideas, or a graphic organizer that every student completes. If each student is doing his or her own version of the task, announce that one paper per group will be collected at the end of the activity. This way students are less likely to linger in off-task conversations.


  1. Successful interactions and transitions



Show (don't just tell) students the basic mechanics that are critical to success in your classroom. Use volunteers to act out example and non-example conversations. Post or provide sentence frames as scaffolds for group dialogue. This kind of up-front investment will pay off when students are able to move, transition, and converse efficiently.


  1. Monitor Progress, Time and Noise



Make students partners, if not primary agents, in keeping tabs on their progress, the time, and the noise level. If groups are producing something tangible, they (and the teacher) can see what they have left to do. Use a decibel reader app on your phone to check the noise level. Track time with an online digital stopwatch or another easy-to-see timer. Make sure to give students less time than you think they need in order to build a sense of urgency. If some groups finish before others, have a next-step question or task ready for students to tackle.

  1. Incorporate community builders

Full-class community-building activities are critical; but smaller, deliberately planted, group-level bonding moments also reap rich rewards in helping groups gel, release tension, and exercise courtesy. Consider displaying fun anchor questions for students to discuss once they are finished. Anchor questions keep students from drifting into uncharted work or conversations. They can be related to the content or task (e.g., "Where have you seen this topic portrayed in real life or in the media?") or appeal to general interests (e.g., "If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?").


Teachers are more likely to design and implement meaningful group activities when they have the management strategies to do so. Taking the proactive steps like those we've described can enhance engagement while curbing the chaos.

This article is inspired from an article on Edutopia. Read the original here.