Most students learn better with one-to-one interactions or in small groups where they can follow the conversation better and indicate when they don't understand. This is one of the big advantages of cooperative group learning.
The peer interaction that takes place during cooperative learning activities is especially helpful because peer language is generally less complex than the teacher's.
These interactions also give all students a chance to actively participate and try out their own ideas in a small group setting.
These cooperative learning activities work especially well with your ESOL students (second language learners) because cooperative group learning allows them to develop their second language proficiency skills by allowing them to interact with native speakers in a low-anxiety environment.
And the fact of the matter is. . .interaction with native speakers helps promote second language acquisition.
Unfortunately, as many teachers know, cooperative learning activities are not necessarily easy to pull off.
Here are three things to remember when using cooperative group learning:
1. Vary Grouping Strategies ~ Groups should be arranged based on the purpose of the activity. Usually you will want to form mixed groups of general education students, special education, and ESOL students (non-native speakers). However, sometimes you will want to group ESOL students together so you or an aide can better individualize instruction.
2. Model Activities First ~ Teachers must explicitly show students how to work together. From how to get into groups to what to do for the activity. . . don't assume anything!
3. Recognize Effective Group Work ~ Have successful groups share with the whole class why they were effective. You may want to give special recognition or points for successful or improved groups.
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