Differentiated Instructions - Small Group Dynamics by Noble Newman
Classroom Small Group Work:
Types of Group Members
Small Group Dynamics
How to work together in a positive way!
Lesson in a nutshell:
• 1) Have students discuss some of the more common “Unwelcome group
member” types and how to handle them
• Try this in a whole group setting
• 2) Have the class brainstorm how an IDEAL group member would act.
• Again, do this in a whole group setting
• 3) Have students identify their individual “Danger Member” – the type of
Unwelcome group member they are most likely to be inclined to become.
• Do this privately and individually and have them review how to handle
• 4) Offer students to share their findings
• 5) Try a set of small group activities where students roleplay specific
unwelcome members who stop when properly confronted by the others
• To help your discussion:
Most common Unwelcome Group Members:
a) The Joker
b) The Quiet One and The Talker
c) The Excuse Maker
d) The Whiner
e) The Perfectionist and The Slacker
f) The Bossy
• Use the following notes to guide discussion
Suggestions to lead your discussion:
• The Joker is funny but always get the group off track
• The joker is often not focused on the task
• **Time waster
• How to help The Joker become a positive part of the group:
• Acknowledge that he/she is funny, but stress the importance of what you are
• Try to tie in his/her great sense of humor to the project
• “That is hilarious! Let’s come up with some other funny stuff together after
I’m done with my section. We can do it when we are both done. Lets do it!
The Quiet One and The Talker
• The Quiet One comes to the group prepared but is so quiet others forget he/she
• The Talker takes over meetings by not allowing anyone to speak. If you looked at
this group once every 2 minutes, you would most likely see The Talker talking to
the group or a neighbor 90% of the time.
• **For both, Great ideas are suppressed either by 1) Not sharing or 2) Not
allowing anyone else to share
• How to help The Quiet One and The Talker become a positive part of the group :
• The Quiet One has great ideas but unless someone calls on him/her, The Quiet one
won’t say anything. The Talker will talk until stopped even though his/her ideas are
great and stated already. So, make sure you STOP once in a while and make sure
everyone has had at least 30 seconds to a full minute to say what they want WITHOUT
interruptions! Someone needs to pause the meeting and go around the circle to hear
everyone. Again, No interruptions. ☺
• “Ok. Jack and Jill, you guys have been quiet. Do you have any ideas? Let’s hear your
ideas or what you like so far. We’ll listen.”
The Excuse Maker
• The Excuse Maker has excuses for all the work he/she did NOT do.
• Some will suspect that he/she is a liar and this will hurt the group dynamic.
• **The group work suffers since a portion of the work is not completed. Some might take up
the slack but might resent The Excuse Maker and this will hurt the group as time goes on.
• How to help The Excuse Maker become a positive part of the group:
• Make is clear that the Excuse Maker’s work is his/her responsibility. No one else will do that part.
• Help the Excuse Maker address his/her concerns. Perhaps there is a different reason he/she is not doing
the work. Help give him/her the Opportunity to catch up and become a member of the team
• The teacher is there to help. Approaching him/her and explaining what is happening can help if done
EARLY. The teacher can address the student, or “weight” the grade accordingly.
• The teacher can also help with an anonymous peer evaluation at the end of the project, just for level of
effort towards the work (not quality)
• “What is wrong? How can we help? Do you need time right now? Are you stuck with a section? Do you
prefer a different section (if not much work was done – or split the rest of the work)? Again… “it’s the
“How can we help” that is the most important and positive way to approach this problem.
• The Whiner complains… and complains… and complains.
• The complaints can be small (and about nearly anything) and,
over time, they add up and The Whiner’s negative attitude will
lower the group’s morale.
• Moral Buster
• How to help The Whiner become a positive part of the group:
• Everyone stay positive yourself! Counter every negative comment
about the assignment or life with your own positive one. Get others on
your side and help The Whiner concentrate on the good things. Have a
happy time and the assignment will fly by!
The Perfectionist and The Slacker
• The Perfectionist takes everything too far for the assignment. He/she also tries to do
everything the way he/she thinks it should go. The Perfectionist likes others to be
minimally involved especially in the planning stage and details. His/her way is the only
• The Slacker lacks motivation and is the lazy member of his group. The Slacker either does
work only half way or not at all. The Slacker hopes others will do the work for him/her
and may even set that as a goal.
• How to help The Perfectionist and The Slacker become a positive part of the group:
• Set the goals of the project clearly and make a quick schedule outlining time and checkpoints. Help
the group understand the balance between time and requirements for the project. Then set up a way
to extend the project if time allows (“If we get this done, by this date/time… we can add details.”)
Prepare the main course, then add the side dishes, save the dessert and presentation on the plat for
last. The goal is sustenance.
• The Perfectionist will have to reign in his/her detail-oriented mannerisms in order to make sure the
main course is set Before anything else. Everyone has a right to do their work at their own pace so
long as they are on time. The perfectionist must understand that he/she should choose to allow
others to work without interference until they are late.
• The Slacker will have to make the minimum goals with the understanding that they are the minimum
and that the group expects this. The teacher can be involved if goal after goal is not reached. Make
it clear that help will be offered, BUT WE WILL NOT DO THE WORK up to the minimum standard.
Make it a group consensus to approve each portion of the project assigned to different people. Keep
suggestions for improvement positive.
• The Bossy steps up to take the reigns. He/she does contribute to the group
with good ideas, but doesn’t listen to others. Even if the entire rest of the
group agrees to another idea, The Bossy will try to use power to force his/
her solution on the rest of the group. Over time, people will give up just to
save time and stop arguing. This is what The Bossy counts on.
• How to help The Bossy become a positive part of the group:
• Step up and vote. When The Bossy’s idea is discarded say the is the decision of
the group and finalize it. If someone else is trying to stop The Bossy from arguing
about his/her idea further, SUPPORT THEM. There is strength in numbers with
baking another idea.
• The way the Bossy will win is if the rest of the group says nothing. Even if you
voted, that is not enough for Bossy. Back you vote by supporting it with the
group. Respect the vote. If you voted differently and say so OUT LOUD! The more
time you are quiet hoping it will go away, the longer the arguments will go on…
do yourself and the group a favor and respectfully support intelligent decisions.
• Still unconvinced? Offer another solution that joins the 2 ideas. Try to
compromise. Bossy does not like compromise, but others will (and should) support
a compromise more readily.
Tips for a successful group
1. Stay Positive and Open-minded
2. Notice and comment on positive things others are doing. Do
3. Ask for help – early.. Before it becomes too big or too late an
4. Take turns speaking
5. Make time to pause and allow everyone to talk