Group Work Strategies

This page will hold all the strategies for working in groups. All of them are designed to prevent me from “over spotting”.

Most of them I learned from the CPM curriculum. Many I wrote myself. A few of them I learned or saw somewhere else. I will present them one at a time over the coming months.

Students walk around and look at the work of other groups in order to get ideas. This strategy is useful when groups are stuck or running out of ideas on an activity.

A fun strategy when groups are working with presentation white boards. It is useful to lighten things up and has the added benefit of stronger engagement and deeper thinking.


Often the teacher will not want the students to go ahead and work on the next problems without having the opportunity to make sure the solution is correct in the first problem.  It might be that the problems all build on one another and if the first problem is done incorrectly, it will affect the outcome of subsequent problems.  Or it might be that there are many different problems that are unrelated, but the teacher wants to check each solution before the teams move on to the next type of problem.  This is when a Red Light Green Light Strategy can be used.


·       The team works together on a problem or set of problems.

·       When they finish the problem, then they must stop. (Red Light)

·       The teacher verifies the work/answer with questions.

·       The team is then given permission to go to the next problem or set of problems. (Green Light)



Purpose: Share ideas (beyond study teams)

When students are working on a Big Problem, sometimes it is well worth the time to have them share their ideas or hear other team’s ideas without having a whole class discussion.  One way to do this is through a Swapmeet.  Part of the way through a problem, have two people from each team rotate to a new team.  They can then share what they have been working on, what strategies they have tried and what questions they still have.  After each pair shares with one team, they return to their original team.  Then they share what was learned from other teams and continue to work.

·       When a team task is partially finished, one pair from each team rotates to the next team.

·       Pairs from the two teams share ideas, solutions, thinking…

·       Pairs return to their original teams and share what they learned.

Teammates Consult is an effective strategy to use for problem solving and concept development situations.  It allows the students an opportunity to think and discuss the problem before actually writing anything down.  Students begin by putting all pencils and calculators in the center of the table.  One student reads the problem or question to the team or each student reads it individually.  Then they discuss the problem, making sure that each team member understands the information given and what they are asked to do.  Possible strategies and answers are also discussed and explored.

When each student in the team understands the problem and has a strategy for solving it, all the students pick up their pencils and write out their solution.  It is best for the teacher to signal to the class when they may pick up their pencils.  The teacher can determine when to do this by walking around the room, listening to the team discussions, and questioning team members.  Students may then compare their work with others in their team or share it with the class.  Team Roles or Numbered Heads can be used for determining who will read the problem, who will answer the questions, and who will share the solution with the class.  Individual student papers can be collected for evaluation.

·       All pencils and calculators are set aside.

·       Students read the problem or question.

·       Give students individual think/work time.  Have them think about the problem individually and silently for one minute.

·       Teams discuss the problem for clarity.  Have them discuss for another minute

·       Possible strategies are shared.

·       Teacher gives okay for pencils/markers to be picked up and written work to begin.

I find that this strategy results in students offering ideas that do not normally offer ideas.