Shona Whyte:


Here's a very practical discussion of group formation for second language interaction by Judith Rance-Roney in the English Teaching Forum 2010.  It begins with some second language research supporting the importance of interaction for language acquisition, then looks at a variety of ways of grouping students to maximise their learning opportunities.  It's based on ESL for higher education in the US, but applicable to foreign language contexts also for the most part.


I've picked out some do's and don'ts which I think are valuable:


- consider fixed groups, saving planning time and allowing learners to get to know each other

- also consider a roster of groupings, to make different groups for different tasks/topics

- group students by proficiency; keep a class list ordered by language level for quick reference

- assign roles to group members: leader, scribe, reporter, vocabulary monitor, time monitor

- allow 5 minutes' study time for learners to absorb new language or instructions before group work begins


- feel bound to make groups of equal numbers: put 3 quiet students together so that they have to participate, but 6 louder students so they have to take turns

- consistently mix high and low proficiency learners: the stronger students will dominate

- always group by affiliation: learners who do not know each other well accomplish more on-task learning

- always avoid grouping same-L1 learners together: L1 discussion can be helpful and code-switching can lead to greater analytic depth

Via Shona Whyte