Lesson 2: Group Work


On your own attempt 5 different ways to form groups.

Students should often work in small groups of 3, 4 or 5 during the lessons. It is only on rare occasions that they will be asked to form groups of 6 or more.

There are many reasons for using small groups:

  • Small groups give time for more students to share ideas. It is easier for shy students to share their thoughts in a small group of three or four than when discussing an issue in a larger group.
  • Small groups allow several students to practice a skill or technique at the same time. These simultaneous practice sessions save time and make the lessons less monotonous, than if each student had to practice the skill in the larger group.
  • Small groups encourage all students to participate. Once a group gets to six students or more, some of them can decide not to participate.
  • Keep the group size small. A maximum of two to five students in a group is ideal. This will give each one of them time to contribute to the task.

Use a variety of strategies to divide the class into smaller groups. These serve as energisers at the same time and are fun for students. Doing this may set a good tone in your class because there will be laughter.

Change the membership of the groups frequently. To save time you can keep the members of a group together for a lesson but change them in the next lesson. Although there may be some resistance or shyness at first, students usually enjoy working with a variety of group members. Provide opportunities for students to change groups often and avoid allowing cliques to form a group of their own. Break up groups of friends who only want to work together. At a minimum, change groups every time you start a new lesson.

 A group must always sit in a circle or semi-circle as every group member needs to see and hear all other group members.

Have the necessary materials ready for the group work activity. These materials could include marker pens or crayons, sheets of flipchart paper and Worksheets or scenarios.

 Suggested strategies to get students in groups:

  • Let students form small groups by lining up by height from shortest to tallest. Then count off.
  • Line up by birth month and count off.
  • Find someone who is a different height.
  • Find someone whose hair is a different style.
  • Instead of numbers, sometimes use words. Let students count off using the words “moon,” “sun,” and “star” and “galaxy”. Ask the “moons” to group together with other “moons.” Ask the “suns” and “stars” and “galaxy” to group themselves together in a similar way.
  • As students enter the class, paste stickers of different colours randomly on each student’s arm. They then form groups according to the colour of their stickers.
  • Collect bottle tops and group students according to the colour or type of bottle top.
  • Ask students to form groups of five and select a group leader. Then all the chosen group leaders must form a group!
  • Use a pack of cards. Hand out cards and group the students based on those with similar or different sets: e.g. black or red cards, cards in a specific order, the same numbers or any other values you want.
  • Collect seeds and beans e.g. sunflower seeds, dried beans and let each student take a seed/bean. Then group those with the same seeds/beans together.
  • Let students draw sticks. Those with short sticks form one group, those with medium sticks join together, those with long sticks gather together and those with no sticks form yet another group.


Group work means you still need to pay attention. Please don’t use the time when students work in groups to do unrelated activities. Monitor the small groups as they do their work. Checking the progress of the small groups will allow you to help groups that experience problems or that are off task. While monitoring the small groups, you can determine how much time is still needed for groups to complete the task.


Please do not spend a long time on getting students into groups. It must be fun and fast! It does not matter if you don’t have exactly all students in groups of 5 or 4 – please just get on with the lesson.

It may be useful at times to give the students specific roles and responsibilities in their groups. This prevents the same person always being the spokesperson (often a male) and the same person always being the note-taker (often a female).

Assign group roles within each small group. Useful group roles are:

  • Leader: Keeps the small group on task and makes sure every student is given an opportunity to contribute to the assigned task. Ensures that ALL voices are heard and included.
  • Reporter/Spokesperson: Reports to the class a summary of what was discussed in their small group.
  • Timekeeper: Encourages the small group to accomplish the task in the given amount of time.
  • Collector of Materials: Gathers all the materials needed to do the small group task, such as markers, paper and handouts. The collector also returns the materials when the group is finished with the task.
  • Recorder: Records the ideas discussed as the small group accomplishes the task.

Ideas! How to assign group roles:

  • The person who travelled the longest distance to get to the campus will be the leader. The leader will keep the group working on the task.
  • The person who travelled the shortest distance to get to the campus will be the spokesperson for the small group and will share the group’s ideas with the class.
  • The person with the longest last name in each small group will be the leader. It is their job to help the group stay focused on the task.
  • The person sitting to the left of the leader will be the spokesperson and will share the group’s ideas with the large group.
  • The shortest person can be the leader. The leader will keep the group working on the task.
  • The tallest or shortest person can be the spokesperson for the small group and will share their group’s ideas with the large group.
  • The person with the largest shoe size can be the leader. The leader will keep the group focused on the task.
  • The person to the left of the leader can be the spokesperson. They will tell the large group what their small group discussed.
  • The person with the longest/shortest hair will be the spokesperson.
  • The person wearing a cap or scarf will be the spokesperson.

All the Lesson Plans can be taught in large classes. They were designed for use in large classes of 30 and more students. It is a myth that you have to regress to a lecturer-style method because you have large classes because ALL the activities in these Lesson Plans can be done successfully with large classes.

While large classes can make you feel tired because you have to speak much louder, in these Lesson Plans you speak very little, so you can conserve energy and your voice. However, when you do speak, make sure you are audible so everybody can hear you.

The secret of working well with large classes is to be prepared. Have all your resources ready and don’t give students gaps to be bored or disruptive. Also, make use of the students by giving them some responsibilities. For example, let them help you hand out Worksheets, assist you to hand out flipchart paper, marker pens and scenarios. Make good use of group leaders to assist you.

When the students give group feedback, don’t let them report back on everything they have written down. Let them choose one best statement not mentioned by other groups. If there are many groups, the students easily get bored listening to long presentations that are often repetitive.


 If you have very large classes or struggle to teach in large classes, please refer to the useful UNESCO publication Practical Tips for Teaching Large Classes: A Teacher’s Guide

Lesson Content