Assigning Roles During Small Group Work

four puzzle pieces

Working in a small group has tremendous advantages for adult learners; it provides the opportunity to practice their language and skills in a low-pressure setting, makes it possible for them to learn from and teach one another, and builds community in the classroom. However, sometimes certain learners take on most of the responsibility for their group, while others are reluctant to contribute. Assigning roles within the group helps to promote equal participation, and distributes accountability.

Potential Roles:

Facilitator: keeps the group on task, makes sure that everyone has the opportunity to share their ideas

Recorder: writes down the group responses

Reporter: shares the small group’s responses with the whole class at the end of the activity

Timekeeper: watches the clock and keeps the group aware of the time limits

You can ask learners if there are other roles that they think should be included, such as artist, board writer, or proofreader.

Introducing Roles:

1.  Write the name of a role on the board.

2.  Define the role for the learners if they are unfamiliar with it.

3.  Have the class work together to generate a list of phrases that the person in that role can use during small group work.

4.  Write the title of the job on one side of an index card, and the accompanying phrases for that role on the other. Make several sets for the class.

5.  When the learners break into small groups, give each learner in the group a card to assign their role. You can also give the cards to a group, and have them decide which learner should take on which role.

Example Phrases:

Facilitator: What do you think? Is your answer the same or different? Let’s talk about the activity. Can you say that in English?

Recorder: Can you repeat that? How do you spell ___? Please say that slowly.

Reporter: Our group decided…  In our opinion… We think that…

Timekeeper: We have ___ minutes left. We need to move on. Time is almost up.


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