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## Effective Group Work

Last night I attended Teachmeet South Bradford at Appleton Academy and saw some superb presentations. There was one given by Andy Sammons (@amsammons) in which he was discussing independent work. He mentioned that he gives his pupils ten “sammonspounds” per group at the start of a lesson and tells them they can buy ten minutes of his time with it, but that’s all they get. This gives the groups drive to be more independent and to save their time until they are really stuck and have devised good quality questions to ask him. You can read more about the topics Andy spoke about on his blog here) This is a great strategy and got me thinking about the ways I have tried to do group work . It reminded me of one method in particular that I have used a number of times to great success and I wanted to share it with you here.

The first time I used it was with a Y11 class in my NQT year, they all had C’s already in maths and were not very motivated to get B’s. I had taught a topic on Pythagoras and trigonometry and I wanted to do a consolidation/revision lesson on it. I set the room up for grouped tables and assigned them groups on their way into the room. I selected groups so that each of the groups were evenly matched and assigned team captains, envoys, timekeepers and finance managers. It was the captains job to take a deciding vote on any decisions, the envoy was in charge of discussing with other groups, the timekeepers were in charge of ensuring they were not running out of time and the finance manager was in charge of the “money” (in this case counters!). I gave each team a float of 20 counters.
The task itself was an exam paper question based relay, there were some really easy questions, and for each one of those the teams completed they gained 5 counters, they went up in difficulty and there was 10 counter questions, 15 counter questions and 20 counter questions. The teams were told that they could buy my help for 8 counters, or they could buy help from other teams at an agreed fee, but I gave a suggested value of 4 counters. At the end of the lesson the teams cashed up and the winning team received a prize.

This worked well with that first class, they were all shrewd with the questions and only purchased help if they really needed it, it helped with independent thinking. I have now used the set up many times (not always with the same activity) and it does work. It engages them and makes them think for themselves more. And on top of that it is fun for tem and me and some teams get really competitive!

Categories: Maths, Pedagogy, Teaching