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Group Roles | Inquiry Lesson Plan Strategy

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In today's collaborative classrooms, the use of group roles can enhance productivity and improve the overall learning experience for students. There are two approaches to group roles: fixed and flexible. Both have their merits, depending on the lesson objectives and the needs of your students. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of each approach, provide examples of roles, and offer tips on how to implement them effectively in your classroom.


Fixed Group Roles

Clearly defined, fixed group roles can help students stay on task and eliminate confusion about who should do what. Here are some examples of fixed group roles that you might use in your classroom:

  • The Facilitator/Leader makes sure the group follows the directions, leads discussions, and directs the group to the next step in a procedure. This role is not the boss, and does not make decisions for the group!

  • The Note Taker/Recorder writes down discussions, records decisions, and may be responsible for submitting the group’s written work to the teacher.

  • The Reporter: shares work with the teacher or class. Often, it makes sense to combine the reporter and recorder role.

  • The Supply Manager: retrieves, returns, and is responsible for supplies. This role isn’t always needed, but can be really helpful when you have a lot of materials in an activity. This is a great role for students who have low skills or confidence with writing, public speaking, or leadership. It allows them to contribute in a positive way with a high chance of success.

  • The Time Keeper: sets/manages timers and reminders, and keeps everyone on task.

  • The Caretaker: makes sure everyone’s voice is heard, checks for hurt feelings, and can call for teacher intervention. The caretaker is a great role for students who tend to take over and ignore the ideas of others.

Not all roles will be necessary every time you do group work, so pick and choose the ones that align with your lesson and the needs of your students. Also, make sure that each role has a function throughout the project - so everyone can participate.

Flexible Group Roles

Flexible group roles allow students choice over the tasks they’ll complete during a work period.

Students begin by filling out a task list that determines the jobs that each member will perform. When the work period is over, students sign off on the tasks they’ve completed - and make a plan for those that need to be finished.

As students work through their task list, they’ll take on multiple roles in each project, allowing them to practice different skills. And the task list that students generate will allow you to check in on the groups easily - and provide data for future assessment and reflection.

Set the stage for the successful use of dynamic group roles by…

  • Creating an overall lesson task list on the board.

  • Modeling the process of dividing tasks with an example group.

  • and providing students a handout or format for the task list.

Using this approach won’t be as quick and easy as Fixed Group Roles. Students may have trouble dividing up the tasks, but that is part of the learning experience as well - and over time they will get better at managing these decisions.

About inquirED

inquirED was founded by teachers with the mission of bringing inquiry-based social studies to every classroom. Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum, is used in schools and districts across the country to help students develop deep social studies content knowledge and build the inquiry skills that are essential for a thriving democracy.

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