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Focus question 2: How do groups function?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Looking at other groups (30 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Developing a constitution (30 min) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: The suggested model (30 min) ESL Activity 3
Activity 4: Selecting leaders and committee members (30 min) ESL Activity 4
Activity 5: Decision-making (15 min) ESL Activity 5
Activity 6: Meeting procedures (15 min) ESL Activity 6
Activity 7: Ratifying the constitution (60 min) ESL Activity 7

Activity 1: Looking at other groups (30 min)

Handout 9

1a Explain to students that in order to get their group organised it is useful to know how groups function. From the information gathered in Focus Question 1, Activity 2, ask students to identify how the community groups get together and make decisions. Through discussion it can be concluded that these particular community groups get together through meetings and members usually vote to make decisions. Explain to students that most community groups are organised this way, although they range on a continuum, from ones where a leader tells everyone else what to do through to groups who reach decisions through consensus, that is, with everyone having to agree to a proposal.

1b Display Handout 9 and discuss the pluses and minuses of three models of community group function. The model of majority rules is used for the class activity in this topic.

Teachers may wish to role-play the three models and ask students how they felt they were able to contribute using each model.

Activity 2: Developing a constitution (30 min)

2a Discuss rules. Illustrate with examples from the class, school, traffic situations. Why do we have them? Rules determine the rights and responsibilities of being a member of a group. This applies to families, class groups and citizens in a community group. So that everyone in the group can be a contributing member, there are rules about how the group will work. Families usually don't write down their rules but other, more public, groups do. Explain to students that most public groups have a set of rules, called a constitution. This is a public document that everyone agrees to follow when they join a community group. The constitution also explains how changes can be made.

Handout 102b Display Handout 10, the sample constitution, and discuss the format as a class group. Explain that the class will develop a constitution to describe how the class project will operate.

2c In small groups, students discuss and note their thoughts on how the tennis club constitution can be adapted to incorporate the Environmental Clean Up constitution. Only some sections can be noted at this time, the rest will follow when the structure for the class group is decided. Through discussion of the notes and agreement by the students, start to draft the constitution.

Australia has a constitution which sets out the rules of government, including law-making by parliament.

Activity 3: The suggested model (30 min)

A model which includes all class members has been included for the purposes of the activity.

3a Display the following committees chart and discuss the committees with the class.

Data Collection Committee
Communications Committee
Finance and Facilities Committee
Support Raising Committee
Management Committee
Consists of Leader
and team
and team
and team
and team
and team
Role Our Committee is responsible for
Our Committee is responsible for
Our Committee is responsible for
Our Committee is responsible for
Our Committee is responsible for
Committee leader          
Committee members          

Teachers may prefer to use existing decision-making structures in the school, eg student representative council, to simplify the task.

Each of the four committees will consist of approximately seven students. (Four committees should accommodate an average class size.) Parent or staff support would help to support the committees. Replace any of the committee titles and roles as appropriate.

3b Discuss the three roles of each committee with the class. Many tasks will come from the committees. Here are some possible starters.

Data collection committee:

Gathers information on:

  • why the clean up is necessary
  • what could be done
  • what the final result should be
  • similar activities in other places.

Alternatively, run this activity as a whole class, with all students participating in all committees in turn.

Communications committee:

  • organises the agenda and takes minutes for the meetings
  • promotes the activity through eg school newsletter, local paper, posters
  • speaks at school assembly to update the school community on the event
  • organises guest speakers.

Finance and facilities committee:

  • estimates cost of items or services needed for the clean up
  • seeks donations of equipment
  • organises equipment as needed eg gloves or tongs, rubbish bags
  • sets up equipment.

Support raising committee:

  • decides which people could support the clean up eg local government may remove waste, supply trees
  • writes to possible helpers eg students, parents, local council
  • works to influence the student council to support the clean up.

Management committee:

  • coordinates the overall activity
  • runs the meetings
  • minutes the major decisions made.

3c Discuss and list the main responsibilities resulting from each committee and list on the chart.

Activity 4: Selecting leaders and committee members (30 min)

4a Clarify for students that leadership roles on a committee carry rights and responsibilities. People join community groups and make commitments based on what they can offer to the group. Usually the people in leadership roles have available time and organisational skills. Discuss examples from the groups researched earlier.

4b From the description of the role, students nominate suitable candidates, or students nominate themselves by outlining their availability, skills and experiences to undertake the leadership roles of the committee. Explain to students that the success of the activity depends upon their selection of the most appropriate people for the role.

Discuss voting principles: all students have the right to stand for positions; all students have the right to vote; the method of election should be fair to all students.

4c Vote to decide leaders for each committee. Secret ballot may be the best way to vote if there are likely to be social repercussions of an open vote. Add leaders' names to the lists. Students nominate themselves on committees. As this is a class activity, all students are expected to participate and undertake a task.

4d The Management Committee will consist of the leader or nominee from each committee. The Chairperson for the Management Committee can be elected from the class group.

4e Add the results of the role selection to the chart.

Activity 5: Decision-making (15 min)

In a consensus, an idea is modified until all members agree.

5a Discuss decision-making. Ask students to decide how the committee will make decisions. For this activity it is proposed that each committee aims for a consensus model with voting as a final decision-maker, if necessary. The committee leader or nominee will represent the committee's decisions at the Management Committee meeting.

Handout 11

5b The Management Committee uses a meeting agenda, keeps minutes and makes major decisions through motions, with discussion for and against and voting to reach a decision. Display Handout 11 and discuss the format and the task.

Activity 6: Meeting procedures (15 min)

6a Explain to students that the times when they are organising the activity in class are the meeting times of the committees. At the end of each meeting time for the committees, the Management Committee will meet with the other class members present.

Provide opportunities for students to record their reflections on the process in their journals.

This provides an ideal discussion on the concept of representation and a way of students observing another aspect of joining in. It also provides a means of observing and further discussion on how decisions are made by the group.

6b Clarify tasks and progress towards the clean-up activity. The Management Committee provides a way for the members to monitor the performance of their representatives. There can also be 'points from the floor' raised at the end of each Management Committee meeting to hear from committee members who feel that information needs to be added.

Activity 7: Ratifying the constitution (60 min)

Handout 107a All discussion groups return to a whole class forum to reach a consensus on the draft constitution. Display Handout 10 and use it as a model for developing the project constitution. It is then published, signed by each member of the class and displayed where everyone can see and readily refer to it. A copy of the constitution can be recorded in student journals as part of their record keeping.

7b Discuss what should be stated in each section. Using butcher's paper, compose a rough draft as a class.

ESL activities

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