As a middle school teacher, I've learned that small groups and pairs both offer so much! That being said, I even let them pair up and do various reading/writing assignments together, in class rather than at home. In this manner, critical thinking and applying reading/writing skills tend to be more fun for them---less "work" in their minds anyway.
By implementing small group tasks, I'm also eliminating chances that a student goes home to no help or no art supplies needed to create that brilliant something in his/her brain. (But, yes, when it is outside of class and individually, my kids know upfront that they can come to me for materials if they need them.) Additionally, it's very TRUE that kids learn from each other, and when they pair up for any assignment, they learn even more from one another without even realizing it. That's invaluable in itself.
Snapshots of Partner/Group Assignments in Class:
These are a few instances of small group activities "After Reading" assignments for The Call of the Wild. Students are easily engaged in discussion. After completing group tasks, we usually share with the whole class, which is why I love the big bulletin board paper! I go through so much of that stuff. Throw out the BIG PAPER and the MARKERS, and they will work! :) It's another way to get them moving some, as they have to get materials, many stand as they are writing/drawing and sharing...and, if you have a block schedule like we do, then you understand their need to move around some!When small groups come together to share, students end up sharing/gaining multiple perspectives, depending upon the task, about novels, story elements, inferences, etc. It's a quick way to informally assess comprehension too!
What is your take on small groups/pairs and cooperative learning activities? No matter the subject, share what you like/dislike about it!