When planning a lesson, do we imagine ourselves next to the whiteboard teaching or do we include pair and group work? The first advantage I see is that at the same time there are more people learning.
So, if we include in our lesson an activity in pairs or groups, what are WE going to do?
First of all we have to arrange the seats so we can take full advantage of the classroom and the furniture. Then we should divide the class in pairs or groups, depending on the activity, using different techniques. We can make groups according to their likes, to their physical appearance, or we can hand out cards that they have to relate in order to find their partner. These activities that are performed previous to the central exercise or game are interesting because they create and environment of fun and friendship, so when they sit together to work they are more comfortable with each other.
Another important step to take into account before starting is the explanation of the activity. It must be short and clear, and followed with some questions to check if it has been understood. If it has not been understood and you don´t check the classroom will turn into a chaos.
Part of the instructions given for the group or pair work must be: talk quietly or even whisper. Also, the language spoken must be English. Another important thing is to give each member of the group a role, such as secretary, etc. In that way each member, even the shy one, will participate and feel important as part of the group.
When the students have started, our role is to monitor. We can move around the class, and listen carefully to what students are saying, so we can check if everybody is participating, if English is being spoken, and so on. If we notice something, we can sit with them for a moment, give an explanation or suggestion and move on, letting them work on their own.
These activities have many benefits. One of them is the increase in the amount of students talking time. Also, when they work in groups they have the need for interaction and in the effort of explaining the other his or her point of view he/she reinforces his/her own knowledge. These activities also develop independence and self esteem in the student.
* Teach all the neccesary vocabulary so they can speak English during the task.
* Give feedback so they can see what they have learned.
* Set the time right, and prepare an exercise or another task in case one group finishes before the other.
What other benefits do you see in this kind of activity?
Do you know anything about “information gap” activities?