Effective Activities Involving Pair and Group Work

Yumi Yada and Bethany Martin Hachiken Junior High School, Sendai

Mid-year Conference January 14, 2009

Warm Up Self-Introductions

Please discuss these questions with a partner.

1. Describe what you saw in the warm-up.

2. How were the two activities similar to each other?

3. How were they different from each other?

4. Why do you use pair/group activities in your lessons?

5. What do you think the purpose and outcome of using pair/group work is?


English education in Japan has historically focused on learning grammar in order to pass entrance examinations. Conversational ability has not been a focus because it simply was not a perceived need for students learning English in the past. However, in the last ten years or so, the curriculum for English education in Japan has been shifting toward an emphasis on developing communicative

but also through the development of students’ communicative abilities in Japanese and their appreciation of Japanese language and culture. Why Pair and Group Work Activities? Theories of language teaching abound for how learners will most effectively learn to communicate in a new language. How can activities involving pair and group work contribute to the current goals for English education in Japan? This workshop will seek to answer this question by • demonstrating the difference between teacher-fronted and pair/group activities. many of these theories “assume the language learner lives and [3] . • presenting ideas regarding the positive outcomes of using pair and group work in Japanese EFL classrooms. MEXT envisions this happening not only through the study of English and the cultures of English-speaking peoples around the world.abilities. Japan’s ministry of education (MEXT) has been stressing the need for Japanese students to have practical communicative understanding abilities of and in English as well as a deeper other positive attitude toward languages and cultures. In an increasingly global society where English is a means for international communication. However. • providing examples of successful pair/group work activities that we have used as well as some challenges we have had with pair/group work and how we have worked through them.

” In reality. their total individual practice time would dramatically increase from one hour per year to five and a half hours per year. Long and Porter (1985) argue that this is hardly enough time for students to actually practice the language they are learning. many students in an EFL context are not exposed to vast input in the target language. If 5 minutes are spent on administrative duties. are surrounded by Japanese in their daily lives. each student will only have 30 second per lesson to practice the language out loud. Major Benefits of Pair/Group [4] . it is a huge improvement. then only 15 minutes are left for students. Learners in Japan. Long and Porter further state that if just half of the time remaining for students were used for individual students talking in pairs or groups of three. Studies show that in a traditional “lockstep” classroom. where the teacher sets the pace and guides the class through grammar lecturing or drill work. While it is still a limited amount of practice.studies in a country in which the target language is used. Long and Porter calculate that in a class of 30 students. the teacher will talk for at least half of the 50 minute lesson. for example. and 5 minutes spent on collecting or distributing homework. and the English they are most consistently exposed to—for junior high learners—is limited to 3 weekly 50 minute lessons (Apple 2006). That is only one hour per student per year! Pair and group activity can make a difference for our students by increasing the amount of time they have to use the language they are studying.

. • ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________________________ [5] . . • give students an opportunity to learn by teaching. develop students’ lifelong learning skills—they can self-teach when there is no teacher there to tell them what to do! • Other benefits.Work Pair and group work activities will increase the chances that our students have to practice English. Pair and group activities will also • contribute to student interest and motivation and an overall positive classroom atmosphere. • create a safe place for students to practice and receive feedback from peers.

one word at a time. Shiritori: In rows. students write word associations on the board. the student repeats the memorized sentence to the person in front of him. 2. taking turns to write one after another. Renso: In rows. For example. At the teachers cue. [birddoggreennew] For the older students.________________________________________________________________ Pair and Group Work Activities Warm-up Activities 1. The first row finished correctly wins. I give the groups a starting letter by writing a word with six different letters across the board (one letter for each group to start with) so that they don’t copy each other as much. who then repeats it to the student in front of her. The person at the front of the row then writes the sentence she heard on the board. The first row finished correctly is the winner. I make rules such as “no three letter words. Sentence Race: The teacher reads a sentence that the students will write on the board as a team—one student. [whitesnowChristmaspresentmom] The row with the most correctly spelled words at the end is the winner. The Message Race: The last student in the row is given a sentence which he has 20 seconds to memorize. students write words that start with the last letter of the previous word on the board.” or “no four letter words” to challenge them further. For example. 3. 4. [6] .

Pair or whole class interviews: Using the target grammar. or another student using a given grammar point. a team only scores a point if no other team has the same word.” the questioning team gets a point. “Whose pen is this?” or with more open-ended questions such as in a map activity (e. Categories could be nouns. All words must start with a letter designated by the teacher. The goal is to collect the most points in a set amount of time. students race to think of one word for each category before the time runs out. Main Activities for Pairs 1.5. 6. Comics: Students create dialogues for comics in pairs. For example. Yes Game: Students form questions for the ALT. JTE. 2. drinks. Gap fill interviews: Pairs have two different handouts. Or it can be more [7] . The results of the interview are then reported as students write their own sentences at the end of class or for homework. such as “Have you ever~?” or “Do you like~?” If the questioned person says “Yes. “Where is the post office?”) 3. etc. Sometimes I make points more difficult to earn. animals. places. both missing information that the other has.g. verbs. This can be open-ended with a simple “English only!” rule. Students interview each other with simple structured questions such as. Scattegories: In pairs or groups. students interview each other in pairs or by mingling with the whole class.

guided with requirements of using certain grammar points or vocabulary words. The teacher can check each sentence before the group can move on to the next picture. students try to complete a sentence about that picture. Mastermind: Students try to guess their partner’s secret sentence by making possible sentences using the day’s grammar. Sentence Races. It can [8] . checking with their group for answers before getting the correct answer from the teacher. The student reports what he saw. Song response: In groups. It could be as simple as an adjective brainstorm. and as a group. or a writing activity based on the following prompts: “This song makes me…” or “I like this song because…” 3. Song ordering: Students put scrambled lyrics in order as they listen to a song. Or try this variation: students listen to the song and fill in gaps on a lyrics sheet. Read and Run style: In teams. 4. students send one person at a time to look at pictures shown by the teacher or dispersed around the classroom. or students can self-check with an answer sheet they receive upon completing their sentences. 5. students listen to a song and brainstorm about ways to describe the song. only the words students think of are later inserted into a story. This usually turns out to be entertaining for students and teachers alike. Mad libs: This is similar to Scattegories. 2. Main Activities for Groups 1.

Reflecting on the Challenges of Pair/Group Work Group activities have been the most difficult for me to manage. I also think that some students who will not participate in a small group won’t necessarily participate in pair work either. A lot of kids seem to get lost in the group for various reasons. Some things I have tried with success are having the group assign roles to each member of the group. or even in a more teacher-directed activity. such as note taker and time keeper. Or they may feel more at ease with only one other person to use English with. or having the group assign an order for answering questions so that each member has a chance to try. Pair work seems more “fail-proof” for student participation. They also have more chances to learn by teaching and to gain confidence through the peersupport of pair or group work. They may be slower than the group or relying on other students to find the answer for them. Pair and group work at least increases the number of opportunities that participating students have to use what we are studying. Those who avoid participating in small groups may feel more pressure to participate when there is only one other person relying on them for the activity. Ideas from Discussion [9] .be helpful to include a “hints box” for filling in the blanks.

JHS and special needs classes.com/jetlounge MES English is a great resource for flashcards. http://www. There are also many ideas for teaching children.com/ Make Beliefs Comix Students can make their own comics from scratch using characters and scenes available on the website. (2006).doshisha.cgi/U_CHARSET. and make-your-own-worksheet capabilities. http://www. 9(2).mes-english. phonics. 2008 from http://elib. http://www.com/ The Sendai EDUCOM Project provides teaching resources created by ALTs. [10] .T. Doshisha Studies in Language and Culture.Resources JET Lounge provides language teaching resources with ALTs in Japan in mind. you can make comics with blank bubble boxes for students to fill in later.ac.makebeliefscomix.esl-kids. or as I have used it in class. Language learning theories and cooperative learning techniques in the EFL classroom. http://www.sendaiedu.cenglish. games. http://www. I use it often for ES. M.utf8/BD00011583/Body/006009020004. 277301.com/ ESL Kids is useful for making worksheets. Retrieved November 15.jp/cgibin/retrieve/sr_bookview.pdf.com/ Online articles about pair/group work Apple.

the second and third blank comics came from Yen Woon on sendaiedu. Mantero.H.com) Do you like/play Bingo (1-nensei.. Mastermind To have (adapted from sendaiedu.com. M.edu/hshi/documents/groupwork_interlanguagetalkand L2acquisition. Group work. Retrieved November 15.com) 4. 7(2). TESOL Quaterly. and second language acquisition.asian-efljournal.Long. adapted from sendaiedu.com) 3. P. 2008 from http://course1. adapted from sendaiedu.com) 5. 2008 from http://www. interlanguage talk. Iwai. Retrieved November 15. Gap Fill Whose ~ is this? (from sendaiedu. Comics Calvin & Hobbes dialogue arrangement Blank comics (I made the first example using makebeliefscomix. EFL Journal. The Message Race 2.winona.A.com) [11] . M.pdf. 1. Pair or whole class interviews: Have you ever…? (3-nensei. (1985).pdf Appendix The following are handouts that we have used with some of the activities described in this packet. Asian .com/June_05_mm&yi. Y (2005) Reframing English language education in Japan. 207-225. 19(2). Porter.

Zao. [12] It is easy for me to speak English! I watch TV every weekend. three years. makes me sleepy. Yesterday I wrote a letter to When I am cold. than Mt. Sentence Races. my grandmother. I know how to play the guitar. You have to call your mother after school. Japan. Talking with my friends We have studied English for makes me happy. Would you like to go to an I have a lot of homework to Eagles game? do after school. Read and Run style with pictures and handout The Message Race These are sentences I have used with 3-nenseis. Tokyo Tower was built in 1958. I think sushi is the most Baseball is a popular sport in delicious food. Fuji is taller mouse. I have never been He has just finished reading that book. . I drink hot tea. to the moon. An elephant is smaller than a Mt.6. It is a review of mainly New Horizon 3 and some of New Horizon 2. When I am sad. My house is next to Watching TV the post office.

She has lived in Japan for two years. [13] . I play tennis every day after school. It is fun for me to watch movies and talk to my friends. English is used by many people in the world. I don’t know how to drive a car. It is difficult for me to eat natto.I watch a funny movie.

Only a lot MORE so! b.Calvin and Hobbes are having a conversation. have you ever kissed a girl? c. A few.com/Comics+Lesson [14] . Hobbes. I guess. GAAK! I was hoping it wouldn’t be so fuzzy! e. ….pbwiki. d. Really? What was it like? from http://teachingactivities. Please put the sentences in the right order! a.

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Write your guesses below. 9. 5. us. Takeharu Sensei. 7. 3. Now try to guess your partner’s secret sentence. 10. 6. Pooh-san. 2. 8. them. Rilakkuma. Mickey Mouse. Harry Potter. How many do you have correct each time? A 1. B.A My Secret Sentence B C D -----------------------MASTERMIND! Choose one word or phrase each from A. B C D OK! [19] . Remember: Don’t show your partner! A Spiderman is Kitty-chan is Bethany is We are Doraemon is They are Totoro is I am B happy sad glad excited C to see to meet to talk to to go to the library with to hear the news from to study with to eat with to go shopping with D you. 4. C and D to make your secret sentence above.

) many times. ). ) is a picture ( ) by ( ) by ( D ). ( )( ). Tokyo is the city ( 6. ( 1. 2. This is a ( 2006. The picture ( very popular. This is a (m 4. ) is 5. This is a picture of (T 3. ( ) by Dr. [20] . ( ) is the book ( )( ) of the (W T )( )( )( C )( ). )( )( ) in ) in ( ).What is the correct answer? SENTENCE RACES Make “right” sentences as fast as you can! Practice! 0.

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