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English Teaching Forum, v48 n1 p20-26 2010

In the field of English as a Second/Foreign Language (ESL/EFL), it has long been recognized that for second language acquisition to occur learners must use English to construct meaning and interact with others in authentic contexts. The importance of learner interaction in acquiring a second language has made the teacher-directed student-centered classroom the standard for effective instruction, in print if not in practice. For many teachers, group activity planning is often based on last-minute decisions or left to chance. When there is forethought, it mostly surrounds putting problem students in the least-likely-to-cause-trouble group. Teachers frequently comment that they have not been given clear guidance in the management of groups; in fact, a quick survey of current TESOL education and methods texts reveals little information about how to accomplish this complex classroom management task beyond the recommendations that teachers use interactional groups because of the multiple benefits for English learners, use a variety of groupings tied to the instructional purpose, and make the process for cooperative groups explicit to students. However, drawing together information from a range of educational areas including curriculum, second language acquisition studies, and effective school research, educators can create some reasonable guidelines for reconceptualizing the process of forming groups. An exploration of the types of collaborative tasks and activities that most successfully meet the instructor's objectives will go a long way towards optimizing the effectiveness of groups, and will affect decisions about successful strategies and group size and configuration. In this article, the author discusses the rationale for collaborative interaction and offers examples on how to deal with these group management issues when coordinating collaborative work in the ESL/EFL classroom. (Contains 1 table.)

Descriptors: Second Language Instruction, English (Second Language), Group Activities, Classroom Techniques, Grouping (Instructional Purposes), Educational Strategies

US Department of State. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs, SA-5, 2200 C Street NW 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20037. e-mail: etforum[at]; Web site:

Autor: Rance-Roney, Judith A.


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