5 Tips for Effective and Productive Small Group Strategies

students working in small groups

Group work is a valuable teaching strategy. It promotes collaboration, problem-solving, communication, and many other important life skills. When facilitated properly, small group work can be a dynamic way for students to learn from one another and from the challenges they encounter together.

Here are 5 strategies that educators can employ to maximize the benefits as they teach small group work.

How to Teach Small Groups Effectively

1. Have Clear Objectives

Giving students the freedom to work in groups is exciting for them, and without clear objectives, they will be confused and instead use the time to socialize or do anything else, which can lead to poor classroom management. 

Begin by outlining the purpose of the small group work. Are students

  • problem-solving,
  • brainstorming, or
  • analyzing?

Knowing the goal will help students stay on track and understand what’s expected of them. Clear objectives will lead to better classroom management and student performance – which will make it easier to teach small groups. 

2. Set Defined Roles

Having students understand the objective solves a lot of small group problems. Another problem in teaching small groups is that students may not be confident in working together, which can lead to some students doing all the work while others are not doing their fair share. 

Help students understand their role in working in small groups by having a job for each student. 

Assign specific roles or allow students to choose them. Common roles include the

  • facilitator
  • recorder
  • timekeeper
  • presenter

This promotes responsibility and ensures that every member knows their part in achieving the group’s goal.

3. Time Limits for Small Groups

Whether you are a procrastinator or like to get it all done immediately, it’s hard to know what to do if you aren’t given a deadline. 

Set clear timelines for tasks. Students should know how long they have, and it should be a reasonable amount – you can always extend the time if you see students working appropriately. 

Use tools like

to signal when it’s time to transition to a different activity or wrap up a discussion. This keeps the group focused and productive.

4. Celebrate Small Group Successes

When small groups meet their objectives or demonstrate exceptional collaboration, acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. This not only boosts morale but also reinforces positive group behavior.

5. Rotate Student Groupings

To prevent cliques from forming and to encourage a broader range of interpersonal interactions, rotate the groupings every so often. This exposes students to different working styles and personalities.

A few more tips to teach small groups...

Here are a few tips that work well for small groups: 

  • Size: 3-4 students tend to work more efficiently. Mix groups to ensure a blend of abilities, backgrounds, and perspectives. This promotes peer learning and reduces the chances of any student feeling left out.
  • Circulate the room and provide guidance: Ensure students have the necessary resources, such as books, laptops, or materials, to effectively complete their tasks. Periodically check in with each group to provide guidance or clarification.
  • Self Assessment, Reflection and Feedback: At the end of a task, allow time for small groups to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what they might do differently next time. This is a crucial step in the learning process. Using a Google Form is a great way to get honest feedback from group members. 

In conclusion, group work is a powerful tool in the upper elementary and middle school classroom. With the right techniques and guidance, it can foster a community of empowered, engaged, and eager learners to tackle challenges together.

5 tips for teaching small groups

Share it:

You might also like...