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|Types of group work activities |
As a rule, most of secondary school students are not confident in speaking English. They give up too easily or rely on their partners or teachers to feed them lines and vocabulary words.
Group work is an increasingly popular vehicle for getting things done in the classroom. Like all learning activities group work is more likely to go well if it is properly planned. Planning requires the understanding of the principle that lies behind successful group work.
Several factors work together to result in group work where everyone involved is interested, active and thoughtful. If these factors agree with each other then group work is likely to be successful. These five factors are :
1. The learning goals of group work
2. The task
3. The way information is distributed
4. The seating arrangement of all the members of groups
5. The social relationship between the members of the group
Let us look at the learning goals of group work before seeing how the factors work together. The following description of the goals of group work focuses on the spoken use of language. There are several reasons for this focus. Firstly, group work is most commonly used to get learners talking to each other. Secondly, much research on group work in language learning has been studied is spoken actively, partly because this is the most easily observed and recorded. Thirdly, most teachers use speaking activities in unprincipled ways.
I`d like to suggest how such activities can be used and adopted to achieve goals in language – learning classes.
Group work gives learners exposure to a range of language items and language functions. This will often requires pre-teaching of the needed language items. Group work provides the students the opportunity to use those language items they have already learned, developing proficiency and fluency. It gives them the opportunity to learn communication strategies that include negotiation strategies to control input ( seeking clarification, conformation, checking comprehension, repetition),strategies to keep a conversation going.
Dealing with all these principles the teacher may expect the learners to achieve one or more of the language - learning goals listed above.
Here are several types of group work
1. In many group work activities learners have equal access to the same material or information and cooperate to do the task. This is called “cooperating arrangement”
2. In the superior - inferior arrangement one member has the information that all the rest need
3. In the combining arrangement each learner has a different piece of information that all the others need
4. In the individual arrangement each learner has access to the same information but perform or deal with a different part of it.
The combining arrangement is ideal for group work because it ensures interest and participation. The essential feature of this arrangement is that each learner has unique, essential information, that the others don`t have, and each piece of information is needed to complete the task.
Here is an example involving a group of three learners.
Each learner has a map of an island. However , on student A`s map only some of the towns are named and only a few roads are indicated. On student B`s map some of the other towns are named, the railway system is given and the airport is shown. On student C`s map the remaining roads and towns are shown, the central mountains are named and the forest is indicated. Each student`s map is therefore incomplete, and each student has got the information that other two don`t know. By combining all the information each learner has to make a complete map. They do this by keeping their map hidden from the others and by describing what is on their maps for the others to draw on theirs.
The most suitable tasks for combining – arrangement group work include:
1. Completion, e.g. completing a picture or a story by exchanging information.
2. Describing a picture for someone to draw
3. Ordering, e.g. putting the sentences or paragraphs of a story in order
These activities do not usually present problems for the teacher. Group size is not a restricting factor. The choice of the type of activity depends on the goals of learning. Similarly, the question of mixed or equal proficiency is best answered by applying the principle . if the goal of learning is to master new language items, the superior - inferior arrangement with a more proficient learner in the superior position would be a useful choice. If, however, the goal is to develop fluency, groups could be made up of learners of equal proficiency in a cooperative arrangement. Research on group work provides useful guidance in apply the principle.
Teacher`s own personality and outlook may provide students with fresh motivation. If you have a genuine interest in the students and their welfare, if you smile often and give praise where deserved, if you are responsive to students` difficulties and if you show faith in their abilities, they will try harder to succeed in speaking English.
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