GROUP poster: Get along

Making Group Projects Work with Diverse Students!

Can students with diverse abilities successfully work together?

Updated 12/15/22; original post 10/9/17

If structured well, group projects can promote important intellectual and social skills. Group projects also prepare students for real-world work projects in which teamwork and collaboration are critical skills. How can teachers eliminate two common group member stereo types – the lone wolf and the free loader?

Often in unstructured groups, a mainstreamed student with a disability – such as a student with a visual impairment – is not always fully included in group projects. How can teachers facilitate equality and active participation from every group member, including groups with diversity?

Making Groups with Diversities Work

Teachers often do not consider that students may not know how to break down the project into manageable tasks and how to delegate these smaller tasks. Students who do not have these skills may shut down on the project and appear to be ‘free loading’. Students who lack good social skills may have a lot to contribute to the group but are overwhelmed with how to appropriately interact within the group. These students may feel flustered, alone and alienated.

Group projects in college tend to be full semester projects. However, simple group projects – and strategies for group work – are introduced early. Elementary school projects may be a quick, 30-minute group activity. Teamwork, social skills and group skills should be age-appropriate and should be developed and expanded as the complexity of the projects grow.

Teaching Group Skills

The following skills focus on group skills for students who are working on bigger projects (middle school and beyond); these skills can be broken down for younger students as well.

Engineering Design Process – Group Activities Help Harry directions: Harry is a small red puffball with googly eyes. Task is to build him a new perch.

Engineering activities are a wonderful way to build group skills – including good social and communication skills. The Engineering Design Process for younger students has five steps:

Use the Engineering Design Process questions to help develop active participation between group members. Model brainstorming (questions and answers) as a class project before working in small groups. The engineering process expects trial and error, improving, and learning from ‘mistakes’. When a design is created, the next step is to improve the design – which means discussing, brainstorming, planning, re-creating and testing again!

Ideas for Group Activities

Looking for a simple group (engineering) project for younger kids? Try Help Harry – an Engineering group project.

Accessible written description of the Help Harry Project here.

Photo of Help Harry directions and teamwork survey. (see attached written description of Help Harry for details)

Pinterest is a wonderful source for ideas on how to teach group skills and specific group activities.

Group Projects on Pinterest

It’s Good Till It’s Not  is an article about group project dynamics with team members who have disabilities.

Editor’s Notes

The featured imagine in this post is a colorful classroom poster with GROUP acronym:

G – Get along – compromise

R – Respect your teammates & Respect the rest of the class

O – Offer your ideas and thoughtful feedback

U – Use a plan & quiet voices

P – Participate actively and equally

S – Stay focused & on task

Collage of making group projects work with diverse students

Attached File(s)
By Diane Brauner

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