I have the age-old problem: when I assign projects, I have a really hard time choosing partners. There is always a kid who slacks off. I'm considering letting the kids choose their own groups, although I know there will be some odd kids out: the less popular, and the least likely to work hard.

Any ideas?

Tags: group work,, groups, partners

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Kids who don't participate sit by themselves doing analog work (book worksheets). Usually only takes once to get them to realize they'd rather do the group thing.
Interesting. Yes, I can see why worksheets would be a good deterrent!

I'm also thinking of giving the option to do solo work -- there are always those kids who can actually do good work on their own.

I also figured, I should have them finish daily logs, to monitor how much work they accomplished that day. They could be really simple:

Beginning of period:
What do you plan on doing today? This could be a brainstorm in the group itself.

1. What did you accomplish today?
2. How well did you support your partners?
3. Did you meet your goals?
4. What do you plan on doing tomorrow?
I can't remember where I found this but the attached random group generator works well.
This is interesting, and fair. They can't say I'm trying to be unfair :)
Pamela, I've taught gifted elementary gifted kids for 25 years and many of them make bad co-operative learners and if fact many make poor leaders in mixed groups!! There are lots of reasons but in many cases they are too bossy or end up doing much of the work. One suggestion I have it put your brightest three or four together and raise the bar for them with higher expectations. This allows the next tier of leadership to emerge. I also would let anyone who likes to work alone work alone. Grouping is just another way to differentiate in a successful classroom.

I know your thinking "eventually they have to work with others", true for some but they'll learn that lesson when they need it.
Nancy, you have a point. We shouldn't always force kids to work in groups. You talking about a more organic process. And yes -- there are times when group work is beneficial, and fun. Then they'll want to join in. In the meantime, I could be a bit more flexible.
Hi Pamela, I'm not sure what grade you teach, but one strategy that I use for picking groups is to let the kids pick, and then when you have a few that aren't picked at the end, let them choose a group to work with. I teach 3rd grade and it works well for my kids, because they feel special being able to pick whatever group they choose. When I assign group work in pairs I always grade both kids work and I give them their partners grade. It forces them to work together because they aren't getting "their" grade they get their partners. Hope that helps!
This could be worth a try. My kids are in the 9th and 10th grades -- I wonder how differently that could play out?

Getting their partner's grade -- that's really innovative! It might whip those lazy kids into shape.
Something that I have had to use with group project before is that each group member gets to "grade" their fellow group members and that grade is factored into their overall project grade. This will work better with middle school and high school ages, but when you stress the importance of participating and show them how not contributing to the group can lead to a low grade, they usually put in more of an effort.

After the project is complete, before they know the project grade, I have them fill out a rating sheet on each partner. Then I do a quick interview with each student to find out more specifics about what happened. One thing I found is that students are usually pretty honest and fair when deciding what their partners deserve.

Oh, I also make it clear that if they try to "get back" at some a classmate by saying they didn't do anything when they did, I will give the vindictive student the grade they wanted their classmate to receive (just incase you run into a not-so-honest student.)
You know, I have the kids grade themselves, and they often do a good job. I'd like to also have them grade each other, to compare and contrast, to get a better picture of what's going on.

I give the kids the rubric, and during the project, they grade themselves. I'm going to add the "grade each other" feature. I think this empowers the hardest working, to know that their achievements are recognized (I always grade them separately), and let the laziest/least active members know there's accountability.

I also, like Nancy, give kids the option of working on their own.

I'm still figuring out how to choose the groups -- there have been a lot of good ideas in this thread, and I'd like to move away from choosing them. The random group generator sounds like potential fun -- although it could lead to resentment, but it's hard to say for sure.



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