Training guide


3. Using group work in your classroom

Group work can be a great way of helping your learners; it encourages them to think, exchange ideas and make decisions. Your learners can teach and learn from each other, a powerful and active form of learning.

Group work is more than learners sitting in groups; it involves working on a shared learning task with a clear purpose. You need to be clear why you are using group work for learning rather than learners working on their own or in pairs. Successful group work has to be well-planned and purposeful. Using group work effectively requires practise – by trying, reflecting and trying again, you will become expert.

Before you start, be clear about what you want to achieve. Group work needs to have a clear purpose or objective. For example: ‘by the end of the session we will be able to describe how rain is formed and what it does to our local landscape.’

Activity 2.4: Using group work

Listen to the audio or read the transcript about how Olivia, a Grade 4 class teacher from Mumbwa used group work to teach about duties and obligations of citizens. She is now reflecting on the activity she planned. Before you listen to the audio or read the transcript, write in your Teacher Notebook the things you think Olivia would need to think about before organising a group work activity.

After you have listened to Olivia or read the transcript reflect on and discuss with colleagues how this would work in your classroom.

  • What is the advantage of this method of getting feedback from the groups compared to asking them to make presentations?

  • What did you find most interesting about Olivia’s experience?

Write your thoughts in your Teacher Notebook to review when you plan future lessons.

Audio transcript

Hello, my name is Olivia and I am a Grade 4 teacher with 50 learners. We are currently studying citizenship and the obligations and duties of a citizen. I decided to use some group work to reinforce the work my learners have been doing over the past few days. It’s quite difficult to do group work in my Grade 4 classroom as the desks are in rows and are very heavy. I decided to put the students in groups of four by asking students in rows 1, 3 and 5 to turn their chairs round to face the students in the row behind them. This way I can easily make a group of 4 without spending too much time moving the furniture!

I told the students that they have 10 minutes to make a list of the obligations and duties of a citizen. They must decide on one student to be the scribe and one person to be the spokesperson. I told them I will be very strict with timekeeping.  After 10 minutes, I stopped the activity. I asked the spokesperson from each group to share one item from their list and as they spoke, I wrote it on the board.  I stressed that there must be no repetition, so all the groups must listen when each student speaks. As each group added a different item, I wrote it on the board. After going around all the groups I asked if there are any other things to add and if there are any points that are missing. 

To finish the activity the class copied the list from the blackboard into their books, and I walked round the classroom overseeing the learners’ work and helping those who needed assistance.