In the past, teachers used rote learning where the emphasis was on “chalk and talk’’ from the front of the room.
Now more emphasis is placed on introduction, followed by group work and plenary. While some students work independently, the teacher can focus on guided work with selected groups in the classroom. It is during these guided work session that children can be supported to improve identified targets or specific needs, as they work towards increasing independence.
Most guided work sessions takes place in groups. Careful consideration needs to be given to the assessment and the identification of the learning needs of the students in the class, before groups can be established.
“Should students form their own groups or should they be assigned?’’
Most people prefer to choose whom they work with. However, many students will work better if they are grouped according to similar needs and abilities.
The number of children in any group will vary, but as a general rule more than six to eight children would not usually form a manageable group.
The groups should be flexible to enable each child to achieve success. This may mean that a child takes part in different groups to consolidate or extend a particular area of learning.
Benefits of group work include:
- Students who have difficulty talking in class may feel more confident about speaking in a small group.
- More students, overall, have a chance to participate then in class.
- Talking in groups can help overcome the anonymity and passivity of a large class.
- Students, who expect to participate through being in a smaller group, actively pay more attention.
- It encourages social interaction.
When working with selected groups of children, teachers should consider carefully the objectives, targets or needs before they plan the content of the session.
If students are grouped according to ability for extended periods, teachers have to pay careful attention to rotation to ensure that all children receive an equal amount of support.
They also need to ensure that groups reflect current needs, so they need to remain very fluid and allow students to move freely within any group according to their needs at any given time.
Guided work can also be highly effective for teachers. It affords teachers the opportunity to work closely with their students. It enables the teacher to scaffold children towards independence. Teachers have the opportunity to model and encourage students to use new skills independently. It allows for personalisation of learning by enabling the teacher to tailor their teaching to the needs of the group and facilitating the teaching and learning of individual children within the group.
The teacher is able to observe closely and to respond quickly to the needs of individuals within the group. They can to give immediate feedback on success and to discuss further areas for improvement.
Guided work sessions will vary in length according to the purpose and the activity but during most guided sessions, other children will need to be engaged in independent activities. The teacher needs to ensure the students not engaged in guided work, are focused on meaningful learning activities which the students can undertake with minimum support. Students need to learn that during a guided work session their teacher should not be disturbed and the teacher will need to have strategies in place so students seek support from each other if they have a question, know what to do if they complete their work etc.
With well planned lessons, good organisation and the establishment of understood routines, guided work sessions can allow the teacher to actively enhance students’ understanding.
Guided work sessions are underpinned by effective Assessment for Learning (AfL). They provide teachers with crucial opportunities for ongoing assessment. In these more intimate learning settings, teachers can clearly identify the learning needs of children and set precise targets that will address the needs of individuals and the group. They provide perfect opportunities for self-assessment, peer-assessment or teacher assessment.
Guided work sessions enable authentic, ongoing monitoring of students to take place in a more intimate setting where students can experience success and enjoyment through closer interaction with their teacher, while gradually develop greater independence and competence.