Elementary Science Program


Collaborative Groups


studentsIn Grades K-2:

Students in the early grades are just beginning to work cooperatively toward group goals. They do not always share materials gracefully. We have found that in grades K-2 it is usually best for each student at a table to have his or her own materials to work with. But working in close proximity to other students is important; it allows for easy interchange of ideas and communication of discoveries. We refer to this early-childhood organization as working alone--together. [FOSS Introduction p. 6]

In Grades 3-6:

On FOSS investigations for grades 3-6, students work in grouped of four with each member contributing to management, data collection, data analysis and reporting of results. individual students' ideas and observations are always incorporated into group decisions. Hands-on science, where students collaborate in planning, action, and data processing, gives students opportunities to develop deep understanding and rich, thoughtful interactions with other points of view. [FOSS Introduction p. 6]

Working in groups takes practice for students and teachers alike, and group work seldom goes smoothly the first few times it is tried. To begin, you may need to spend time helping students learn some of the necessary skills and supporting and encouraging good group interaction. Be patient, for the results are worth it. Students learn more in the groups because each is more actively involved and profits from the interaction with peers. [Insights: Growing Things p. 6]

Though initially you may need to make a few adjustments in group membership to obtain good working groups, you will want to maintain permanent pairs and groups throughout the module. Students develop good group interaction and responsibility if each has a particular role. We suggest that you define roles with specific responsibilities for students to assume. If your class is large, you may need to assign more students and roles to each group. Roles should rotate with each learning activity so that students are given a variety of tasks and can develop different skills. [Insights: Growing Things p. 6]

Research and experience suggest that groups of three or four work best. Grouped of five or more students tend to have problems, so it is preferable to split nine students into three groups of three rather than a group of five and a group of four.

The chart below identifies the responsibilities FOSS recommends assigning to the members of a group. In a group of three, the Reader/Reporter job can be shared among the three students.

Getter Recorder
  • gets materials for the group
  • asks the teacher questions for the group
  • makes sure all material is returned
  • supervises inventory of group materials as needed
  • records the group's "official" observations and data
  • makes sure everyone has recorded information on student sheets or journal pages
  • makes graphs of group data
Reader/Reporter Starter
  • reads any printed material to the group
  • makes sure everyone understands the task
  • summarizes and reports group findings to the class
  • first one to use materials
  • oversees construction tasks
  • makes sure all group members take part