TeachingEnglish
Building Group Dynamics in the Class (Part 1)

In my previous post I wrote about the journey of teachers becoming a group. Now it’s time for reflecting on ways of maintaining group dynamics in the class. In the initial group formation period as a teacher I try to establish a non-threatening sense of a class identity and a learning community. I try to communicate the idea that we will learn and function together. I try to make use of activities including (1) ice-breakers, (2) learning names, (3) charting out expectations and rules of the class in order to know the students but also to foster positive intergroup/peer relations. Therefore, I often move students around so that they have different partners in group work. In “Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom” Dörnyei and Murphey (2003) they suggest that is important for students to ask themselves “Do I like myself in this class”. I ask this question to myself as the teacher as well and I have to say that it helped a lot. Ehrman and Dörnyei modeled the group development in learner groups in 4 developmental stages which are1. Group formation (getting to know each other and breaking the ice). It’s claimed that teachers’ role is to establish a friendly climate, manage group anxiety, clarify group goals and project enthusiasm (p.51).2.Transition (negotiating trough the storm). Teachers need to manage conflicts in a patient manner and maintain the essence of group while allowing room for the group to test its limit. Such a fine balance…! Isn’it? RefReference: Dörnyei and Murphey (2003). Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom, CUP, Cambridge.

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szampiga's picture
szampiga

Hi, it is a very interesting subject. I teach English as Efl in a state sec school in Italy and I feel that especially on the group dynamics the students' outcome depends. Whereas for me it is easier to start, it gets more complicated from the 4th year (I have them for 5 years). Of course there are various factors, among which the fact that, for the other subjects there is a very traditional approach and I still have to learn to negotiate more open rules with the other colleagues. In addition I have a communicative approach, which is very successful until the third year, but then the lack of a more grammatical approach, followed instead in the other subjects, makes students insecure...Sorry but I haven't got time now to explain further, many thanks for posing this issue!