Encouraging Cooperative Learning Among Gifted and Talented Students

Literature circles, and other similar methods, provide cooperative learning opportunities.

By Wendy Haagenson

Cooperative Learning With Gifted and Talented Students

We each have situations in which we work best. I, for example, work best in a fairly relaxed environment and with someone to guide me only when necessary. Others thrive on an impending deadline, or work best with a partner to share the workload. Like us, our students also have their own individual way of learning. The same qualities that give gifted and talented students that intense passion for learning, and their independent spirit, can make it difficult for them to work in cooperative groups. With the challenges teachers may face in mind, here are some ideas to encourage cooperative learning with all students, including G.A.T.E. students.

Using Literature Circles and Assigning Roles

First of all, it is important to assign roles to students within a group. A great way to do this is by using literature circles because each member of the group is assigned a specific role. Using this method, each student gets to independently complete their job, but then has to come together to discuss what they have read. If you choose to use literature circles, make sure that you spend time teaching the class what the responsibilities are for each role, and what you expect of them. Here is a Literature Circle Packet that has some great free information and worksheets on how to get started.

Assigning Defined Roles in Groups

Another way to provide defined roles during group work is to provide a list of assigned tasks for each member. For example, one person could be responsible for the materials, another could be the scribe and write down all ideas, another could be the speaker who is responsible for sharing any information, and another could be the executive who oversees the group. This method works best if students are already sitting in groups. Remember to rotate roles every week or two!

Create Groups With Common Interests

When creating groups, you can divide students different ways, one way is by their common interests. You can do this by putting students into groups depending on which task they are interested in working on, or by the topic they would like to delve into. For example, if you are creating a public service announcement as a class, you can make the project more successful if you divide students into groups based on what they would like to do. If everyone interested in writing the script works together, and everyone who would like to speak in front of the camera works in another group, you can make sure that you get the best out of your students. When everyone does their part, your public service announcement will come together like a jigsaw puzzle. Choosing to group students by their topic of interest would work well for a research project or a presentation. For instance, if your class was studying plants, your students could choose whether they wanted to create a presentation on oak trees, daisies, etc . . . If students are invested in what they’re working on, they’re more likely to work well together.

Allowing Students to Create Groups

Finally, another technique that can be a success, or a disaster, depending upon your students, is allowing them to group themselves. This is best done infrequently, since we want students to learn how to work with people they may not already have a relationship with. When allowing students to group themselves, I always take a few moments to explain my high expectations (staying on task, not visiting other groups, getting your job done in a timely manner) and tell them that they need to make a wise choice when picking who they will work with. I always reserve the right to choose a group for a student if their choice isn’t the best for helping them learn. Here are some lessons that are particularly helpful for providing specific roles within a group.

Cooperative Learning Lessons and Activities:

Power Point Presentation for Literature Circles

Students work with a group to create a PowerPoint presentation about a novel they read in their literature circles.

"Across Five Aprils" - A Novel Study

While working within a group, students choose a format for presenting information related to a novel read as a class.

"Troubled Tangerine"

Students read this novel (using literature circles or some other format) and videotape dramatic scenes from their reading.

Novel Study in Literature Circles

This lesson is for older students. Working in a group with three others, students read, discuss, and complete a project based upon the novel they are assigned.