Group-work is a form of classroom interaction that developed out of the need to get learners to work together and in doing so to produce more language and allow teachers to monitor this production. In the EFL class, it often takes the form of discussions, simulations and role-plays and competitive or co-operative games.
Group-work works best if the size of the group is restricted to three to five learners thus allowing a good chance that all learners will contribute more or less equally. In selecting the members of a particular group, it is a good idea to consider their strengths and weaknesses not only as language learners but also as group-members. Some teachers prefer to separate stronger and weaker language learners into different groups and assign slightly different tasks according to ability. Others prefer to mix learners of different abilities and assign different roles to individual members such as time-keeper, note-taker, discussion-leader etc. One way of mixing students randomly is to give each student a number (1,2,3 according to the number of groups that are necessary) and then ask all the learners with same number to sit together.
Group-work works best if it is structured in such a way that learners are clear about what is expected of them and what the outcome(s) of the task will be. It is important that learners are provided with adequate individual preparation time before asking them to complete the group task. This might take the form of asking individuals to prepare their roles on their own for 2/3 minutes before starting their role-play or asking them to make their own notes before the group-discussion starts. Whenever possible, try to provide the learners with points of reference for their role or discussion – asking learners to discuss youth unemployment might not lead to a profitable or extended discussion but providing them with written prompts to refer to such as “consider its likely causes, effects on individuals, families and society in general” will help them contribute more and get over that feeling of having nothing to say. Similarly in a role-play asking individuals not only to consider what they are going to say but how and what else needs to be said will lead to a fuller contribution later on during the role-play itself e.g.
You are a doctor. You are talking to a patient. He/she looks very pale.
Try to find out:
How he/she spends his/her day? Perhaps too much work with computers?
What he/she eats? Suggest healthier options.
After completion of the group-work, there should be some feedback on the task itself. This could take the form of “public” in-front-of-class performances of the role-play by individual groups or a whole-class discussion of the subjects discussed in groups. Finally, the teacher will need to give some feedback on task performance – highlighting areas of excellence and ensuring and drawing attention to the mistakes made (rather than the learners who made them) and prompting correction.