Group work ideas

Ah, lazy Michele…

I posted this a while ago on Yahoo in answer to a query about group work ideas. I was sleepy after my parent conferences, and had a no-prep day, followed by taking Russians to book stores (FuN!) and then a rehearsal…so I pasted it all in here and then forgot to publish it then:

Give students the structures for the day/week. They work for three minutes to
write a story line (I call them skeleton stories) on a post-it in English –
because these are new structures – and then I use them either for my real story
asking, to tell the story while kids act it, or to combine for an embedded

Retell: Once kids have drawn the story, they gather for two minutes into a group
of four, each of whom contributes one or two sentences to a retell.

Retell with twists: Once kids have done the retell, they gather in small groups
to tell a similar story with some twists. They draw the story out and tell it to
the class. (See Susie Gross for a more complete explanation.)

Reading: students are in homogenous groups to read (easy-for-them) novels
together. At lower levels, they read in English, helping one another with
troublesome words.. At higher levels, they read and stop only to discuss or ask
one another questions about such topics as character motivation or prediction.
They record their questions. (Lots of ways to read in small groups or pairs will

Or…students are in heterogenous groups, so that a stronger student can help a
weaker reader by filling in all the missed words.

Read/write: Pairs of students read a story together and add embellishments so
that the teacher can create embedded readings.

Susie Gross again on pair sharing: Students draw a story, using recent
structures, for homework. When they return to class, they work in pairs to tell
their stories. When their partners can retell perfectly, the partner gets the
picture of the story he/she can retell and goes to the front of the room to get
a new partner and repeat the process. They continue for a period that allows
everyone to tell and learn at least three or four stories. If a student ends up
hearing his/her story with some changes, it’s fun.

Fractured stories: The teacher hands out pieces of story; the kids read it and
try to find the other pieces by telling their little piece to other students.

Group murals: teacher hands out or tells a story, and a group tries to get every
part of it drawn by collaborating on the drawing.

Jason Fritze’s running dictation: sentences are posted in the hall. One student
in a pair runs to read the first one, comes back and dictates it to a partner,
who writes it on a white board. Teacher is moving around the classroom. When
that sentence has been written correctly (student may run back out to check
again), the students switch places, until all the sentences are written.

Out of time…hope this helps. Don’t do it all on one day!


2 responses to “Group work ideas

  1. Thanks for this. I am desperate for something kids can do without me. Have been sick for 10 days .with no sign that I will ever stop coughing. Sigh.


    • Oh, Jen! Get well! Take a day off entirely and sleep and drink lots of water and tea with lemon and honey…salt water gargle, “Throat Coat” tea… Your kids can do more without you than you think, and you need to heal.


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