The problem with children working in groups is that one child often does all the work for the others. Children may collaborate and enjoy working on an activity together but a child who is less secure will tend to rely on others and so will not be learning as effectively.
To overcome this, you can use ‘Plan Together, Work Apart, Check Together.’ Essentially this means that a group of (ideally three or four) children
- plan together which questions they are going to answer, then
- work apart (ie not collaborating) to answer them, and then
- check together to see whether their answers agree. Differences can then be discussed and errors explored: Who is right? Who is wrong? What caused the error etc?
For the greatest benefit, it is important to develop good habits by using this strategy regularly and consistently, whenever children are collaborating on a common task, eg:
- When children sitting next to each other are completing the same textbook page or worksheet and have permission to talk together
- When children are working in teams on a numberless problem where they have agreed their own numbers
- When children are engaged in a real-life exercise such as choosing items to buy with a certain budget – in this case, the children should plan together to agree what they will buy, work apart to calculate the total cost to see if it is within budget, and then check together to see that their calculations agree.