Collaborative Roles Help Organize Your Student Groups

So, a few weeks back we had this amazing training on Essential Questions. Well, during part of the training I got this idea to start organizing my students into collaborative roles and making their jobs very specific. I am so bad about just saying, “Okay. Here you go. Have at it and figure it out.” I forget that students need modeling and they need very clear, specific goals.

The great thing about collaborative roles is that they can be used all year in any subject. I have used these during Social Studies, persuasive writing, and guided practice in reading. You are using these as supplemental tools to go along with your lesson.

That’s where these collaborative roles came into play. Collaborative roles are great for building collaboration, causing your students to work together, organizing groups, and this looks great during a classroom observation (they will be looking for collaboration and differentiation).

I made these table tents so I could quickly tell who had what role. Print these on card stock and laminate so they can be used over and over again.

At the beginning, I put the students in groups of 4. I assembled students according to ability, placing higher achieving students with those who were struggling a little more to help bring them up, and behavior I did not put two kids together at the beginning if I thought they would struggle with getting along. It really brings down the entire group. Eventually, though, we all have to learn how to get along!

I started off every day going over their objectives and the role they should be playing while at their tables (I also placed these on the back of their table tents). If I had it to do differently, I would have modeled every role and had the entire class practice one role at a time until mastered. I tried to keep roles simple.

Print this sheet out and put in a sleeve one per table or place under your document camera for students to refer back to. I actually added this to my CHAMPS board.

I had my students roll a die, like the ones shown below, to decide what their job was for that day. Now, you may want to decide how to do this. You might just let them roll once and that’s their job for the tenure of the project.

As the year progresses and they mature a little more, you might allow for students to roll a die every week or daily. It really depends upon your students and how well they handle change. You will need one die per table group.

Cut around the perimeter of the die.
Fold on all black lines.
Glue on the rectangles and tuck underneath the square. Glue the tab that says TOP last so that it has a clean finish. You could write table #’s on this square.
Ta-Dah! Now your dice are complete.

Now let me go over roles. DISCUSSION LEADER is like your group’s leader. I don’t try to say this too much but I dot put a lot of work on the discussion leader. If the group is off task, I ask the discussion leader why this is. If there’s a problem, I talk to the discussion leader.

To bring a more positive aspect to the table, I cut out these affirmation cards and place them in a baggy (5 per bag). Discussion leaders can pass these out as they see kids displaying these behaviors. Your discussion leader will enjoy managing behavior, but may become overwhelmed at times so be there to help when needed.

Then next collaborative role is a SCRIBE. I will tell you that not all kids enjoy being a scribe, but someone will need to be the writer. We start off all lessons with a driving question. The driving question asks an open-ended question that goes with your unit of student. The scribe uses this graphic organizer to jot down any other questions the group may come up with stemming from this driving question. The scribe can also help the researcher with taking 2-Column Notes if needed.

I tried to make those squares fit Post-It notes, but they’re a little large. You can still have students place sticky notes on top. I always gave my Scribe a pad just to give them plenty to write on and they liked getting the stickies.

I gave you a 2-Column Notes rubric included in this set to show the students that anything can be taken for a grade. It also enables them to see what their notes need to display. When jotting down notes, the students need to keep things short and sweet. They need to paraphrase what they are reading so they are not plagiarizing.

I did grade this rubric. I also go over it several times throughout the unit so they will see what is expected of them.


TIME-KEEPER is next. This is a super fun job and will help you out tremendously. My problem is that I became the time-keeper and could never sit down. If I did this differently, I would assign one time-keeper to come get the cards depending on what the clock or timer (on the Smart Board) says. I began doing this toward the end and it helped tremendously. Pick someone who can handle listening and working with a team while watching the time for you. Some days we have 25 minutes, some days we were lucky to have 10.

Cut these apart. Place them in baggies according to time. I found it easier to place all of your 5’s, 10’s, 15’s, etc. in a bag. It was easier for the kids to clean them up that way.

The last role is the RESEARCHER. Everyone will want to be the researcher, which is why you will want them to roll the die to see who gets the job. The researcher is allowed to use a device or book to research the answers to questions or confirm something written on the notes.

I didn’t take a picture of the notes, but your researcher is adding to the notes or could be adding to the citations page (also included). I had to put a limit on device usage because I noticed some kids were staring at I-Pads for the entire duration of the group time and not listening or working with the others. I started saying that devices could come out during the last 15 minutes of time remaining.

On that note, I did grade students on their collaborative roles. I use this rubric ALL THE TIME. If I need an extra grade or have students working together on a project and they aren’t necessarily turning in a “product” then I grab out this little puppy.

I hope you find this set of collaborative roles resources useful. I know I love this kind of stuff and love hearing my students teaching one another. Research shows that students learn more from their peers than they will ever learn from a teacher.

Hope this helps and is something that you can use all year!

Whitney Is. 41:10

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