Pick a Partner: Defining Roles for Group Success

In the last post about working in a group, we discussed ways to define rules and create boundaries so that students can work effectively. Today, we’ll wrap up this series by explaining how to teach students to take an active role in group work.

All students–those with hidden disabilities and their typically developing peers–benefit from clearly defined roles. We adults can relate to this. Imagine an office that lacked any defined roles…no defined sales force, project managers, product development team, or support staff. Who would want to work there?

Just as adults benefit from orientation when starting a new job, students need clear, specific instructions on how to be an effective member of a team. This takes time, and good planning. Remember, many students with hidden disabilities struggle with understanding how to interact with their peers appropriately. Therefore, teachers should plan time to explain each of the assigned roles.

A few tips to get you started:

Create roles that make sense for the assigned project. For a task in which students are asked to compare two people and create a poster about them (for a social studies or Bible class, for example), the following roles might work well:

(role cards from Prince George County Public Schools, MD)

Use visual supports. Remember that some students with disabilities have a difficult time understanding social concepts. Showing pictures of students engaged in group work can be helpful in conveying the expectations for various roles.
Practice, practice, practice. Allow students to do some role playing of both positive and negative interactions. Some students will be able to improvise, but others will need a script to follow.
Refer to the rules. Students need constant reminders of the rules governing group work. When specified roles are added, students will need to discuss how they can follow the rules while doing their group jobs.
Monitor and support. Remember…even adults have difficulty working cooperatively. Students will need supervision and support as they learn to collaborate effectively.

For the good of the group~

It’s April 2, which means Autism Awareness Day!  We’ll be talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders in the next few days. In the meantime, don’t miss Steve Grcevich’s series on Asperger’s Syndome. 

Also, you’ll want to register TODAY for and attend the Children’s Ministry Web Summit…FREE training, from the comfort of your home! Don’t miss it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s