Structuring Small Group Collaboration

Tips for Artists and Educators on Supporting Small Group Collaboration

Group work and collaboration are not synonymous.  Students can be grouped together focused on the same work task, yet it can be individual versus co-constructed.  The benefit of collaborative work is that it is authentic and leads to outcomes that could not be accomplished individually.  The key to collaborative group work is setting it up for success. 


Benefits of Small Group Work

  • Allows students to make artistic choices
  • Effective for conceptual learning and problem solving
  • Offers opportunities for language learning and practice in a natural, meaningful context
  • For MLs, more confidence to take risks
  • Potential for more equal distribution of talk time


Considerations for Setting Up Collaborative Small Groups


Supports for Small Group Collaboration:

  • Group Agreements
  • Criteria Checklists
  • Prompts/sentence starters
  • Self assessments (exit slips)
  • Agendas
  • Ice-breaker activities
  • Fish bowl modeling
  • Toolbox – vocabulary & visuals
  • Graphic organizers
  • Storyboards
  • Feedback & revision logs
  • Timer
  • Props

Addressing Challenges:

Challenge Supports
Multilingual Learners’ level

of language

Use a prop like a microphone to pass to the speaker
Introduce a protocol for participation
Model the conversation/fish bowl
Include prompts, sentence starters or word banks
Allow discussion in first language 
Allow multiple ways to respond
Assign language buddies/accountability partners
Teach how to negotiate meaning, communicative competencies
Support translanguaging – leveraging multilingual language assets
Reluctant students who do not want to participate Trust Building activities
Allow choice in group or role they select or rotate roles
Introduce accountability measures


One student dominates group discussion

Teach social strategies for participation- turn taking, cooperation, giving feedback
Assign roles and responsibilities
Establish group agreements
Introduce accountability measures