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Organising and managing pair and group work

Cambridge English | Teaching Your Subject in English | Video | Teachers discuss language for organising and managing pair and group work
I like to do a lot of scaffolding. At the beginning of the year or when I first meet a group, I generally focus on pair work. Then I try to put two pairs together, so they’re already working in small groups of four. Later on, I can introduce groups of three, five, six. And I’m also quite specific on the instructions. I try to give very clear instructions. I want all learners to have accountability for their group work. So they have to know that at the end of the activity, there will be some kind of follow-up or wrap-up. I think it’s also important to assign roles.
But that depends on the age of the learners and also on the characteristics of the subject or the language level. Pair work, because it encourages students to use English. I often organise pair work for them, because it’s not so embarrassing for them, because I’m not there. I mean, I’m there, but I’m in the background, so there isn’t pressure on them and they can use English quite freely. We’ve been thinking about that, all the groups of teachers, and we decided to use the co-operative learning and two different special plans to improve the understanding when they are reading and when they are solving different problems. We have a new distribution in the class. They are sitting down in groups of four.
And they have different roles. There is a supervisor, there is a co-ordinator, there is a speaker. And I don’t remember the other - the environment. The atmosphere in the class is just completely different. And they feel more comfortable, more confident. And they can use usually the help of their partner, and if they can’t solve the problem, they use the help of the group. And if they can’t, they come to ask for help. Starting off with pair work or with smaller group work is really important to make it easier for our learners to work effectively. It’s very hard to just say, do group work.
When it’s structured and when there’s more accountability, we’re actually making it much easier for our learners to know what is expected of them and how to do it. And one other point, I think with the increased use of iPads and internet, again, the timing is really important. Because some learners will find material information very quickly. And others will take much longer, because it’s in another language. So I think to give time constraints is quite important.
Now we’re going to look at the language subject teachers use to organise and manage pair and group work. You’ll hear our teachers discussing how they help learners to get the most out of pair and group work.
For example: I’d like you to work in pairs, A and B. ‘A’ is going to read text 1 and ‘B’ is going to read text 2. You’ll then share two facts you already know about renewable energy and two new things you’ve learned about it.
Watch the teachers and complete these sentences summarising the points they are making:
1. Claudia: ‘When I first meet a group, I focus on pair work then I ………’
2. Claudia: ‘Learners need to know that at the end of the activity there will be ……..’
3. Peter: ‘I use pair work because …….’
4. Anabel: ‘When learners are working in groups the atmosphere in the class is ……..’
5. Claudia: ‘Starting off with pair work or small group work is important because ……’
6. Kay: ‘With the increased use of tablets (iPads) and internet timing is very important because …….’
Compare your answers with the document below.
How do you guide your learners so they get the most out of doing pair and group work? Do you set up your classroom for pair and group work? What’s your classroom like? What do you like about it? Describe it for us in the comments box.
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