Cooperative Learning Activities
Through extensive research on the use of cooperative learning Johnson and Johnson (1987) found higher achievement, increased retention, and improved interpersonal skills. Cooperative learning also has been shown to promote higher self-esteem and acceptance of differences, as well as to foster responsibility. It encourages creativity by giving students opportunities to observe the problem-solving approaches and cognitive processing strategies of others (Kohn, 1987).


Grouping Students
Research in cooperative learning shows that the most effective way to configure small groups is to put together four students who represent a cross-section of the class in terms of level of past performance in the subject area, race or ethnicity, and sex (Slavin, 1986).

Students should be assigned to groups or teams by the teacher, since they tend to choose partners who are like themselves. Periodically, teachers should consider grouping students more homogenously, particularly so that more advanced learners can challenge each other and be pushed to exceed their current abilities. When a class does not evenly divide up into groups, the extra students can be assigned the role of “floater” who collect information from each group, eavesdrop and report back to the class what he or she discovered, or serve as an observer of group processing. In this way, the extra students can contribute to the class at the end of the activity or during group reporting

Structuring Group Tasks
1. Ensure that students do, in fact, need to cooperate in order to complete the task. They should not be able to complete it without interaction.
2. Keep the group size small; start with pair activities. Groups are most effective when they are no larger than five.
3. Set the stage; motivate the activity with drama, actions, or visuals.
4. Set clear goals; describe outcomes clearly for the students.
5. Make sure the students have the target language they need to accomplish the activity, that they know how to say what they will need to say.
6. Give exact directions for every step of the task. Model the sequence of the activity in precise steps.
7. Set a time limit to help students feel accountable and to make the best use of the time available. Use a kitchen timer with a loud bell or buzzer to provide a neutral timekeeper and a clear signal for the end of the activity.
8. Circulate among the students throughout the activity. This will enable you to monitor use of the target language, offer assistance, and check progress.
9.Establish a system for directing the attention of the students back to you, e.g., a hand signal such as a raised right hand, dimming the lights.
10. Elicit responses at random from each group after the activity, which will hold students accountable for staying on task. (adapted from Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004, pp. 108–110).

Some Cooperative Learning strategies (Colorín Colorado website)
There are some popular strategies that can be used with all students to learn content (such as science, math, social studies, language arts, and foreign languages). However, they are particularly beneficial to ELLs for learning English and content at the same time. Most of these strategies are especially effective in teams of four:
  1. Round Robin - Present a category (such as "Names of Mammals") for discussion. Have students take turns going around the group and naming items that fit the category.
  2. Round Table - Present a category (such as words that begin with "b"). Have students take turns writing one word at a time.
  3. Write around - For creative writing, give a sentence starter (for example: If you give an elephant a cookie, he's going to ask for...). Ask all students in each team to finish that sentence. Then, they pass their paper to the right, read the one they received, and add a sentence to that one. After a few rounds, four great stories or summaries emerge. Give children time to add a conclusion and/or edit their favorite one to share with the class.
  4. Numbered Heads Together - Ask students to number off in their teams from one to four. Announce a question and a time limit. Students put their heads together to come up with an answer. Call a number and ask all students with that number to stand and answer the question. Recognize correct responses and elaborate through rich discussions.
  5. Team Jigsaw - Assign each student in a team one fourth of a page to read from any text (for example, a social studies text), or one fourth of a topic to investigate or memorize. Each student completes his or her assignment and then teaches the others or helps to put together a team product by contributing a piece of the puzzle.
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  1. Tea Party - Students form two concentric circles or two lines facing each other. You ask a question (on any content) and students discuss the answer with the student facing them. After one minute, the outside circle or one line moves to the right so that students have new partners. Then pose a second question for them to discuss. Continue with five or more questions. For a little variation, students can write questions on cards to review for a test through this "Tea Party" method.
After each Cooperative Learning activity, you will want to debrief with the children by asking questions such as: What did you learn from this activity? How did you feel working with your teammates? If we do this again, how will you improve working together?
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Give One, Get One
1. Students fold paper in half lengthwise (hotdog style). Students then open paper and draw a line down the crease. At the top of the left column, students write “GIVE ONE.” At the top of the right column, students write, “GET ONE.”
2. Teacher poses a question or a topic with multiple answers and gives a time limit.
3. Students list as many things as they know in the “GIVE ONE” column.
4. Teacher tells students to stand, put up hand, and find a partner.
5. Once students have greeted their partner, Partner A gives an answer to Partner B. If Partner B has that answer on his/her paper, he/she checks it off. If it is a new answer, he/she writes it in the “GET ONE” column.
6. Partner B gives an answer; Partner A checks or writes.
7. Partners say thank you/good-bye, put hand up, and find a new partner.
8. Continue until teacher says to stop.