How to Improve Group Participation in the Classroom

How to Improve Group Participation in the Classroom

Holly Morse

Holly Morse

May 17, 2022

<p> How to Get Your Students Forming, Storming, Norming, and PERFORMING Successfully!</p>
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the last three weeks I have explored the first three stages of group participation and development: forming, storming, and norming, all essential developmental phases in preparation for the final phase, performing!

Most of us have been doing this throughout our teaching careers in the form of group projects or presentations at the end of a unit to give students the opportunity to show what they CAN DO!!

However, if teachers are not careful, this phase can be wrought with complications. Students need to be shepherded through the stages of getting to know each other (forming), wrestling with different personalities (storming), and learning to accept their differences (norming) in order to maximize their ability to be successful as a team. Once a group of students has figured out how to work together, a teacher can assign group projects and presentations.

Group Participation

The age-old problem will still be ensuring that each member of the group participates equally in completing the work. Inevitably, there are some group members that care more about their grade than others and end up doing all the work while resenting less productive group members. I hope that it will not be discouraging for me to admit that I never mastered this issue after 43 years of teaching! Rather, I hope you will be challenged to find new ways to tackle this inequity.

One idea is to make sure that peer evaluation is an important part of the group grade. Help students hold each other accountable by requiring them to evaluate each other anonymously. Build in time elements that require each group member to speak for a certain number of minutes. Consider as many parameters as possible that ensure participation from all!

Presentation Engagement

Even after you have your groups engaged and performing, there is the additional problem of keeping the rest of the class engaged. I have found that group presentations can kill overall Gen Z student engagement in a heartbeat.

Since an important part of building proficiency in a language is learning to ask questions, I suggest requiring every student not presenting to ask follow-up questions. Keep track of how many they ask and factor this data into their participation grade.

You might have students in their seats fill out information about the presentations to keep them focused and engaged. Questions could be general: Mention 2-3 things that you learned; What was good about the presentation?; How could the presentation be better?, etc.

Group Projects

Here are just a few of my favorite group projects ideas:

  1. Have a small group of students plan their version of “El Camino de Santiago,” a well-known pilgrimage that ends in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
    1. Students have to research which route they will take, how long they will walk, describe two people they met on the trail, the food they ate, and 2-3 experiences they had, and present their walk to the class. This can be such a fun project for creative students!
    2. What is sad about Gen Z students is they don’t tap into their creativity. They just want to get this project done and get into reading their next social media posts. Be sure to frame this project as an amazing opportunity to learn about “El Camino” and plan a trip that may very well be a reality for them one day when studying abroad during their college days! ( I take every opportunity to entice them to do this!!!)
  2. Create a campaign for a cause and compete for financial support like the TV show “Shark Tank.”
    1. In small groups, students decide on a cause (actual or original) and present the rationale for supporting their cause. Each student has fake money to put toward the cause that interests them most.
    2. This results in a competition for which group is able to promote their cause most successfully.
    3. The project can be adapted to a product that relates to a particular unit. For example, students could be charged with creating a fitness program as a culminating activity for a health unit.
  3. Hispanic murals and muralists from different cities around the world.
    1. Each group could present their research with a slideshow that features this amazing form of street art and an explanation of the symbolism.
    2. As a final step, the group has to create their own mural and explain its significance.
    3. This can be a digital creation or a sketch, depending on the artistic talent of the group!
  4. Creating stories around famous Hispanic artwork.
    1. I especially liked to do this with Frida Kahlo as a way of introducing a whole study of her life and works.
    2. Small groups choose one of her paintings and without knowing anything about her, they create a story around the images. After learning more, the same students present the real story behind the same work of art. It’s a fun way to stimulate creativity and engage students in art appreciation.
  5. Famous Families.
    1. In small groups, students research a famous person’s family to introduce to the class.
    2. There can be a certain amount of intrigue with this since many times we don’t know much about the family of a famous actor, singer, artist, or sports figure.
    3. I like to make sure that students find out about pets, too, if possible.
    4. There are many variations on this project, too. In small groups, students can create their own families and present them to the class.

There are endless project and presentation possibilities that can be designed to promote both interculturality and language proficiency in a way that is fun and engaging for today’s digital natives. Start imagining a few of your own as a culminating activity for a unit that incorporates vocabulary, structures, and cultural knowledge!

And one more bit of advice… be sure to structure the project with specific criteria and expectations. Review exactly how the project will be graded. I like to use rubrics that outline what is entailed in order to get the A, B, C, etc. This is the secret to getting stellar products!


If you are interested in an amazing way to supplement your curriculum with rich interculturality, check out FL4K. The toolkit that includes culture posts in an Instagram-like format and proficiency-based games and dialogues serve as a great preparation for discussion, research, and projects or presentations! 

We’ll be back next week with another tool tip. In the meantime, sign up for a free trial with FL4K!

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