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Of all classroom grouping strategies,

cooperative learning may be the most flexible
and powerful.
Marzano, Pickering & Pollock 2001

Examples of Cooperative Group Work Activities


Team Interview
Paired Heads Together
Rally Coach
3 Step Interview
Give One, Get One
Placemat Consensus
Relay Review
Find Someone Who
Who am I?
4S Brainstorming
Inside/Outside Circle
Blind Sequencing
Rally Robin
Sage and Scribe
Travelling Heads Together
Same Different
Listen Right
Rank Order
Back to back
Listening triads
Match mine
Pass the buck
Rainbow groups
Round table
Soldiers lines


Can be used to assess new knowledge.
Learners work in teams of 3 or 4.

Learners are interviewed in turn by their team-mates.

1. The teacher assigns a topic and sets the time limit.
2. 1 learner from each team stands ready to be interviewed by their teammates.
3. Team-mates then interview the standing learner asking open ended
4. When the time is up, the standing learner sits down and is thanked by their
5. In turn, remaining learners stand and are interviewed by their team-mates.



Can be used to share knowledge.
Learners work in two pairs.

1. The teacher distinguishes shoulder learners from face learners.
2. The teacher presents a problem and provides learners with think time.
3. Learners write their answers individually, without help.
4. Learners share and discuss their answers with their shoulder learners,
coaching if necessary, to come to their best answer.
5. Learners signal when they are ready.
6. The teacher says, Turn to your face learners. Everyone share your best
answer. Learners just listen. Learners share as individuals, not pair to pair.
7. The teacher announces the correct answer, saying, If your partner said
XXXXXXX, then give them a high five (P1, handshake etc).
8. Teacher does an additional round, mixing up each time which face learner


Can be used with work sheet or oral problems provided by the teacher.
Learners work in pairs.
Learners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches.

1. Learner A solves the first problem, explaining what they are doing.
2. Learner B watches, listens, checks and praises.
3. Learner B solves the next problem, explaining what they are doing.
4. Learner A watches, listens, checks and praises.
5. Repeat.


Can be used as assessment of prior or new knowledge or opinion.
Learners work in pairs and then fours.
Learners interview a Learner and then share what they have learned.

1. The teacher provides the interview topic and states the duration of the
2. The teacher calls for think time.
3. In pairs, learner A interviews learner B.
4. Learner A thanks and praises learner B.
5. The pairs switch roles: learner B interviews learner A and again thanks and
6. The pairs then pair up to form groups of four.
7. Round Robin: Each learner in turn shares with the team what he/she
learned in the interview.



Can be used to encourage learners to share ideas and examples.
For example: places to go on holiday; ways in which a story ends;
similes for description; how would you describe to a blind person.
Learners work in teams of four then in pairs.

1. In teams, learners brainstorm Give One items without writing them down.
2. When they agree they have come up with a good Give One item, they
each, in their own words write it in the Give One column. (Provide learners
with a worksheet with 2 columns one column titled Give One, the other
Get One.)
3. When their Give One column is full, the team stands.
4. When all teams are standing, each learner puts up a hand and moves to
find a new Learner.
5. In pairs, learners each give one idea and get one idea. Learners write the
idea they received in their own words in the Get One column.
6. Pairs part. Learners put a hand up until they find a new partner and then
again Give One & Get One.
7. When their form is full, learners stand at the side of the room offering to
Give One to anyone whose form is not yet full.
8. When all learners have finished their forms, they return to their teams and
share the ideas they have received.
Team-mates place items they agree on in the centre of their team placemat.
Learners work in teams of four.
1. Each team draws or is given a placemat on a large piece of paper.
(A placemat consists of four boxes with an additional box set in the middle
of the page for consensus items.)
2. The teacher provides the teams with a topic for discussion.
3. Team-mates all respond simultaneously in their individual space, writing as
many items as they can in the time allotted.
4. Team-mate 1 announces one item he/she has written.
5. Team-mates discuss the item.
6. If there is consensus that the item is important, Team-mate 1 records
his/her best consensus of the teams ideas in the centre of the placemat,
seeking help with wording if necessary.
7. The process is repeated for one or more rounds so each team-mate in turn
suggests an idea and records the team consensus.



Can be used to review prior or new knowledge, as a starter or plenary activity.

Learners work in groups of 4 divided into two teams of 2.
1. Two teams of 2 stand as shown with learners in each pair standing one
behind the other, facing the other pair.
B1 A1
A2 B 2
2. A1 has the baton and carries it to and hands it over to A2 and gives an
answer. A1 then goes to stand behind B2.
A2 B2 A1
3. A2 carries the baton to B1, hands it over and goes to stand behind B1.
A 2 B1
B2 A1
4. This continues until time is called.



Can be used to review a topic or assess prior knowledge.
Learners each have a question sheet and ask others for a correct answer.

1. Hand each learner a work sheet and ask them to chose a partner.
2. Learner A asks learner B a question from the worksheet. B responds and A
writes down the answer and signs As work sheet.
3. B then asks A a question and A responds as above.
4. Learners shake hands/thank each other and move on to find a new
5. The whole process is then repeated until all questions have been answered.
6. The answers can then be reviewed within groups or as a whole class.



Can be used to review a topic or to assess prior knowledge.

Learners work in groups of 3 to ask questions and coach each other to the correct
1. A pack of question cards are given to learners who are in teams of 3.
2. Learner A shuffles the cards and fans them out, with the questions facing
3. Learner B picks a card and reads it out aloud.
4. Learner C answers the question.
5. Learners A and B praise if answer is correct or coach learner C until they
can answer the question correctly.
6. The cards are rotated clockwise after each question so that learners take it
in turn to be A, B and C.



Can be used to assess prior or new knowledge.

Learners question one another to discover their hidden identity. Any reply to a
question must be either yes or no.
1. Pictures or names are placed on learners backs.
2. Learners walk around the room until they find a Learner. Learners check
each others back.
3. Learners take turns asking 3 yes/no questions.
4. After 3 questions learners change partners and again ask 3 yes/no
5. When a learner guesses who they are, their partner removes the picture
from their back and gives it to them to wear on their front. They are now
helpers and are allowed to drop one subtle hint to any learner who does
not yet know their identity.



Brainstorming can be used as an end in itself for creative thinking or as a

beginning for generating ideas for problem solving, discussing, and writing.
The team becomes a think tank as each learner each with a special role
contributes to the teams storm of ideas.
Learners work in groups of 4.
1. Each learner is given a role.
2. The teacher announces the topic on which learners are to brainstorm as
many creative ideas as possible.
3. Team-mates put their heads together and generate as many ideas as
4. The secretary records each idea on a different small piece of paper.
For 4s Brainstorming, each learner gets one of the following roles.
Speed Sergeant ensures that team-mates work fast, under time pressure, to
come up with as many ideas as possible. The team member assigned this
role says things like: We only have one minute left. Lets hurry! Lets get
quicker with our responses.
Chief Support makes sure all ideas are encouraged with no evaluation of
ideas. Chief Support says thinks like: All ideas are great! Thats an
excellent idea! I really like that!
Sultan of Silly encourages silly ideas. Having a good percent of silly ideas
is very helpful in the flow of ideas. The silly idea may not be part of the
final solution, but may well lead to an idea that is. The Sultan of Silly says
things like: Lets have a crazy idea! Can anyone think of something funny?
It is not the Sultans job to provide all of the silly ideas; rather he or she is to
encourage team-mates to come up with silly ideas.
Synergy Guru encourages team-mates to build on each others ideas,
saying things like: Lets build on that. Lets combine these ideas. The
Synergy Guru is also the team Secretary, recording each idea on a
separate slip of paper. In teams of five the Secretary is a fifth role; in
teams of three the roles of Chief Support, Synergy Guru and Secretary are
4s Brainstorming is a strong team builder designed to release synergy and
generate an inhibited flow of ideas. Learners build on each others ideas,
coming up with a storehouse of creative ideas or solutions to problems.


Can be used to acquire new knowledge or recap a topic.
Learners work individually and then pair up.

1. Give each learner a







2. With cards in hand, learners get up and move around the room trading
cards with other learners as they pass by.
3. When the teacher calls freeze, they all stop in their tracks and no
more trading of cards is allowed.
4. When the teacher calls match, learners actively seek out the partner
who has their matching card.
5. After all learners have found their perfect match, call mix and they
start again.
6. Encourage learners to mix independently, not with friends. Model how
to find a matching learner, if necessary.
7. When learners have a Learner, they move to the outside of the room to
allow more room for those still looking for a partner.


Used to introduce new information.
Learners work in large groups.

1. This is a good structure for having learners share information in an

exciting way.
2. Learners stand in two concentric circles around the classroom. Learners in
the inside circle face out, facing a learner standing on the outside circle.
3. Learners from the inside circle share something with their partners.
4. Learners switch roles; the outside circle learners now share while their
partners listen.
5. Learners rotate to work with new partners rotate four people ahead to
a new partner vary by changing the number of positions advanced or
switch the direction of the rotation; class counts aloud the number of
positions they are moving so everyone knows when to stop. One, two,
THREE! (Movement energises learners.)
6. Learners problem-solve or share with many partners and hear multiple

Learners rotate in pairs and discuss in groups of four; e.g. teacher asks
question; inside circle pair discusses question while outside circle discusses
questions; pairs compare answers.
Learners generate questions they want to ask other learners in the
classroom. Put the question in a hat and draw out one question each time
the circles rotate.
Flashcards each learner makes up one question on a flashcard.
Learners ask each other their questions and switch cards before each
rotation. With each rotation, learners get a new partner and a new
Teacher can supply the flashcards, or act as quality control by collecting
and correcting cards before they are used.


Good for revision.
Teams are best in threes or fours.

Teams work to sequence cards in their proper order, but there is a catch
each learner is given his or her own cards, and no one else can see whats on
The teacher prepares sequencing cards. Content on the cards may be
sequencing content or the steps of solving a problem. Each team receives
their cards face down so no one can see whats on the cards.
Dealer Deals Cards
One learner is assigned the role of dealer. The dealers job is to equally
distribute the cards among team-mates. The dealer deals the cards face
down making sure no one can see the cards. When learners get their cards,
they mark the back of the cards to identify them as their cards. Learners can
use initials, a number, a letter or a geometric shape.
Learners Describe Cards
Learners look at their cards, without showing them to anyone. In turn, each
learner describes his or her cards to the team. Learners describe the cards as
well as possible in an attempt to make it easy for the team to sequence the


In pairs, learners alternate generating oral responses.
Can be used to review a lesson/topic.

1. The teacher poses a problem to which there are several possible responses
or answers.
2. In pairs, learners take turns giving responses or solutions.



Learners take turns being the Sage and Scribe.
Can be used to peer assess the learners at the end of a topic.

1. The Sage gives the Scribe step-by-step instruction on how to perform a
task or solve a problem.
2. The Scribe records or follows the Sages solution stepby-step in writing,
coaching if necessary.
3. The Scribe praises the Sage.
4. Learners switch roles for the next problem or task.



Learners work in groups of 4 and travel to new teams to
share their team answer.
Can be used to assess prior knowledge or after research on a topic.

1. The teacher presents a problem and gives think time.
2. Learners privately write their answer.
3. Learners stand, show answers and discuss, then teach each other.
4. Learners sit down when everyone knows the answer or has something to
5. The teacher calls a number, and one learner from each team with that
assigned number, stands up.
6. The standing learners join another team and sit down with them to share
their best answer.


Good for introducing new information.
Learners work in groups of 4.

Distribute materials. Each pair on the team (of 4) receives two items,
(e.g., pictures, articles, advertisements, poems, films, music, extracts
from texts) and a recording sheet for the team.
Make sure that Pair A does not show what they have to Pair B. (Teams
could build a barrier so pairs cannot see what the other pair has. Give
each pair two wallet folders and one paper clip. They clip the folder
together at the top with a paper clip and spread the base to make a
stand-alone buddy barrier).
In their pairs, each learner takes it in turn to make their contribution.
When the separate pairs have uncovered all the similarities and
differences or cant find any more, they compare their lists. They go
over all the similarities and differences they recorded, again taking
turns and making sure they are accurate. Then, they continue to find
more similarities and differences. (Teams can be held accountable by
collecting their recording sheets.)



During an explanation the teacher stops talking to allow learners to write the
main points, compare with a learner and celebrate.
1. Teacher gives information in small chunks. Learners, with pens down, listen
carefully for the key words, phrases or ideas.
2. Teacher stops talking.
3. Learners write, draw or add key points to a mind-map.
4. Learners share with a partner, checking for accuracy and making corrections
on their own papers.
5. Teacher announces key points.
6. Learners celebrate if correct or make corrections.
7. Learners put pens down and process is repeated from Step A.



Learners each have an individual problem to solve then line up in

numerical order of their answers.
Can be used whenever numerical answers are required.
Problems can be differentiated so that all learners have an equal chance of
1. Learners solve their individual problem while sitting at their desks.
2. When the learner has solved his/her problem they move to the back of the
3. As they are joined by other learners, they rank themselves in ascending
order of their answers.
4. When all learners are in what they hope is the correct order, they discuss
their problem and solution with a partner. The teacher can do the pairing
5. Any mistakes can be rectified and the rank readjusted.
6. The teacher then checks to see if the ranking is correct.

Students sit in pairs back-to-back the chair backs should touch so the students
are close enough to hear each other.
A is given visual material which he holds close to his chest. B is given a piece of
plain paper and a pencil.
A describes the visual to B, while B draws it, aiming to make a perfect replica
which is exact in size, shape, and detail, complete with labelling. Describers are
not allowed to draw in the air with their fingers.
This is a cooperative exercise. B can ask as questions and As job is to be as
helpful as possible.
When the time is up, partners compare the original with the copy.
Partners swap roles and material.

Once groups have carried out a task, one person from each group is
selected as an envoy. The envoy moves to a new group to explain and
summarise their groups work and to find out what the new group thought,
decided or achieved. The envoy then returns to the original group and feeds
back. This is an effective way of avoiding tedious and repetitive reporting-back
sessions. It also encourages the envoy to think about his/her use of language and
creates groups of active listeners.
Example: A Year 7 history class was divided into small groups. Each group was
given a different historical artefact to handle and speculate about. Once some
ideas about origin, age and use had been generated, one group member went
to the next group to introduce the artefact and explain the groups thinking. The
new group contributed ideas before the envoy returned to the original group.

A topic is divided into sections. In home groups of four or five, pupils
take a section each and then regroup into expert groups. The experts work
together on their chosen areas, then return to their home groups to report on their
area of expertise. The home group is then set a task that requires the pupils to
use the different areas of expertise for a joint outcome. This strategy requires
advance planning, but is a very effective speaking and listening strategy
because it ensures the participation of all pupils.
Example: A Year 9 history class was working on maps of the local town. Five
maps were used, each from a different period of history. Home groups of five
divided the maps up and then expert groups formed, with a checklist of questions
to help them to interrogate their map. When home groups reformed, each pupil
was required to introduce his or her map and talk through the information
gleaned from it. Each group was then asked to summarise what it had learned
about how the town had developed over a 200-year period, and to start
speculating about the reasons for this.


Pupils work in groups of three. One pupil takes on the role of talker, one the role
of questioner and one the recorder. The talker explains something, or comments
on an issue, or expresses opinions. The questioner prompts and seeks clarification.
The recorder makes notes and gives a report at the end of the conversation.
Next time, pupils change roles.
Example: Pupils in a Year 9 English class were given a poem. Each pupil selected
sections that they felt were interesting or significant. The teacher organised the
pupils into groups of three and each read out her or his chosen section and
discussed with the questioner reasons for the choice. At the end, after all three
had introduced their chosen sections, and taken a turn as questioner and
recorder, the recorders notes were considered and the group drafted a
collaborative written response to the whole poem.



Use to develop visual thinking and vocabulary on any subject.

Partners on opposite sides of a barrier must communicate with precision, in order
for one to match the others arrangement of game pieces on a game board,
which is hidden behind the barrier.
1. The SENDER arranges his/her game pieces on his/her game board.
2. The Sender gives the RECEIVER directions to match the Senders
arrangement of game pieces on the board.
3. When finished, partners check for accuracy.
4. The Receiver praises the Sender for their instructions and they develop
improvement strategies.
The partners now switch roles and repeat with a new arrangement.


Students work in pairs at tables which are arranged in rows.
They have five minutes to begin a draft answer to a difficult question.
Pairs could work on large sheets of paper with felt pens.
As soon as time is up, they pass their partial answer to the pair behind them and
receive the work of the pair in front.
The now have five minutes to continue, not their own answer, but the received
answer from the pair in front, picking up from wherever it was left.
They are encouraged not just to add, but to cross out bits they dont agree with
and redraft others.
The process can be repeated, after which the papers are returned to the original


This is a way of ensuring that pupils are regrouped and learn to work with a
range of others. After groups have done a task, each pupil in the group is given
a number or colour. Pupils with the same number or colour then join up to form
new groups comprising representatives of each original group. In their new
groups, pupils take turns to report on their original groups work and perhaps
begin to work on a new, combined task.
For groups of six. Allocate colours as in Edward do Bonos thinking hats. Form
same-hat groups to discuss the hat response then return to original group to
discuss in role. (See attached list of hats)
Example: A Year 7 science class was asked, in pairs, to draw a concept map of
all their ideas about the term force. Pairs then formed fours to compare lists and
categorise their ideas into different kinds of force. The teacher then gave each
pupil a colour (red, green, blue, yellow). New rainbow groupings were then
formed all those with the same colour and pupils were asked to introduce
their force categories to each other. Each new group was then asked to devise
some scientific questions in preparation for a class discussion.



Student work in groups of 3 or 4 to solve/answer a multi-step problem.

Ideal for solutions that have an algorithmic form.
1. Students are numbered 1 to 3 or 4.
2. Student 1 answers the first part of the problem with the rest of the group
offering help, giving constructive criticism and praise.
3. Student 2 then answers the second part of the problem with similar
responses from the rest of the team.
4. This is repeated with students 3 and 4 etc until the problem is solved.
5. For more problems, the students roles are reassigned.

A Year 10 science group was exploring rates of reaction.
Step 1: On your own, write down as many ways as you can that might
speed up the reaction between hydrochloric acid and marble. You have 1
Step 2: As a pair, compare your lists, agree a set of factors that you think have
the best chance of speeding up the reaction and leave to one side those you
think are irrelevant. You have 2 minutes.
Step 3: As a four, select from your lists those two factors that you think will cause
the biggest increase and are therefore worth investigating. You have 3 minutes.
Step 4: As an eight, for each factor you have selected, use what you
know about particles to give a reason for the effect you think it will have.
You have 10 minutes and then I will ask for your reasons.
In this example the snowball builds to a group of eight, but it could stop at four.


The group divides into two rows and both stand facing each other.
Teacher informs each row whether they are for or against the proposal
Each facing pair takes it in turns to argue their viewpoint for one minute each
without interruptions.
Teacher will ask one row to move up by one person, with end free person from
one line moving to the back of their row.
Teacher again asks one row to move up, but this time roles are reversed.

Co-operative group work activities examples of classroom applications

3 Step Interview

Maths What can you remember about probability?
Science - What do you know about the rock
cycle/homeostasis/products from oil etc any revision topic

4S Brainstorming

History - Ideas for reducing crime.


Almost any visual material, such as photographs of landscapes,

settlements, historical monuments, works of art, maps, fashion garments,
religious buildings.
Geography diagrams of different types of volcanoes, sketchmaps.
Flow diagrams, maps and plans.
Designs in technology
History Chronological events.
Generic - Steps in a process.
English Stages of development chronological incidents.
SEAL Stages of unhappiness/happiness.
Generic What are the main issues here?
Generic five groups have to discuss five different aspects of the
same issue.
Maths Circle Theorems; equations of a circle; graph and equation
Science - Circulation and the heart, forces, reactions of metals (any
topic really!)
Maths Use with any worksheet
Science - All and any Science specification topic

Blind Sequencing


Find Someone Who.

Give One, Get One

Inside/Outside Circle

Maths Ways to represent data; types of polygons;

properties/vocabulary associated with circles
Science - Chemical symbols/formula/renewable/non-renewable
energy resources/for and against arguments for any contemporary
Science issue
SEAL Generating good personal goals.
Maths Any set of mathematical problems
Science - Any topic area of Science with a number of
RE Prepare a poster on Celebrations from the perspective of
different religions.

Listen Right

Generic - delivery of information.

Listening Triads

Tech pupils discuss reasons for their choice of design.

Match Mine

Maths Coordinates and mathematical shapes; 3-D objects made from



Maths Fractions; standard form; rearrangement of formulae; simplifying

algebraic expressions; logarithms; matrices
Science - Any Science topic with lots of questions and answers or
similarities and difference or imagies and descriptions to match up
Maths Write/describe all you can about x2 2x 3

Paired Heads Together

Pass the buck

Placemat Consensus

Exam preparations.
English planning an essay, extended creative writing, audiences.
MFL Translations, open-ended stories.
Technology generating or evaluating different designs to given
Maths investigations
Art developing drawings and paintings in the style of a variety of
Revision any subject.
Science - Good for debates where different opinions need to be
discussed good for HSW contemporary Science ideas

Rainbow Groups

Generic De Bonos Thinking hats to solve a problem.

Rally Coach

Maths Any Maths worksheet

Science - Any Science problem/exam questions

Rally Robin

Maths Ways to make 24 using

addition/subtraction/division/multiplication only; factors of 144;
properties of a polygon
Science - Types of energy, energy resources, forces, organs in the body
anything that you can list or methods of

Rank Order

Maths Any differentiated set of questions

Relay Review

Maths Ways to make 24 using

addition/subtraction/division/multiplication only; factors of 144;
properties of a polygon
Maths Simultaneous equations; fraction +,-,x,; Pythagoras theorem;
trigonometry; mid-point, gradient equation of a line;

Round Table/Mixed Pair

Rally Coach
Sage and Scribe

Any Maths worksheet

Anything Sciencey!

Same Different

Science - Characteristic of animals/plants/environmental

adaptations/cells/forces/energy types/compounds/mixtures/elements
etc. Can use pictures as initial stimulus
Generic selecting the best from a variety of solutions to a problem.

Soldiers Lines

Science Nuclear Power, ethics.

Team Interview

Topic revision each member of a team having a different topic.

Travelling Heads Together

Maths Any multi-step problem

Science - Any multi-step problem or abstract idea. How are rainbows
formed?, why is the sky blue?, why is the Earth round? etc
Maths Types of number; polygons; graphs
Science - Historical Science figures/ formula/energy resources or
types/different forces

Who/What am I?

Further Research

Cooperative Learning Structures for Classbuilding
Spencer Kagan
Cooperative Learning
Spencer Kagan
Spencer Kagan
The above books are available in the Staff Library in the LRC.

An introduction to Kagan structures by Spencer Kagan himself.
The homepage of all things Kagan.
British website devoted to Kagan Structures

Thank you to Barbara Thompson for supplying the strategies outlined.