Date: Jun 27, 1995 12:37 PM
Subject: "Cooperative Groups"

As a second grade teacher, I use a wide variety of strategies in my
class. I think that originally "cooperative groups" or "learning"
entailed having roles assigned to members (leader/facilatator, recorder,
reporter, materials manager, domestic engineer, etc.) and having fairly
orderly sets of behaviors and ativities required. I do believe that
people need to be taught how to work together, I don't think it's
entirely natural--although it has certainly been necessary to get us
where we are today--alive! Anyway, I'm more comfortable with looser
interactions for second graders. Partner and group work is almost always
appropriate in our class. Children assume that unless I say otherwaise
they are welcome to work with other children in our class. Most of
these pairing or groupings are self-selected. However, everyone knows
that no one is to be left out who wishes to work with a group (no one
is forced to take on a partner, however, unless the activity dictates
a partner.) I set up groups myself from time to time and chidren are
seated in groups of four that I've arranged for a good heterogeneous
mix--sometimes I require the children to work in these groups (I don't
consider having your desks together working together, though). Anyway,
what I've discovered is that when I occassionally use random seletion
of groups those tend to work the best.

Since children are not REQUIRED to work in groups--except SOMETIMES--
those who feel the need to "move on" or go slower, or whatever, may choose
to work alone on occasion. They may also present to the class alone.
Since none of our acitivies or problems can be done or solved in only
ONE WAY and since many of our problems have more than one correct answer
it is easy for all of my children to be able to present and solve
problems using techniques that work best with their thinking and their
strengths. They also get to see how others think.

So, sometimes I assign groups based on my vast knowledge of
my students and their needs and SOMETIMES I require everyone to work
in these assigned groups, sometimes I DON'T require anyone to work in
groups although it is perfectly permissible, and on RARE occasions I
require that students work alone. And OFTEN I'm amazed that the groups
that neither the children nor I select are the ones that work the very
best. Oh, yes, SO
M SOMETIMES I even put my more needy kids together--the ones who don't
try or who don't speak during presentations. That way they're forced to
come up with something! And because we VALUE mistakes in our class and
treat each other with respect (and I don't mean this facetiously as I did
my vast knowledge remark up there) even if the group gets it all wrong and
confused they are not embarrassed or penalized, we just all learn from
their mistakes! See? There is no ONE right way to do group learning!
:-) Cindy