Helping your kids with group projects

As children grow into teenagers, they likely will do more group projects. These collaborations provide opportunities for your children to become leaders and learn from one another. Working with peers is not always easy, but you can help your kids succeed on a group project with these tips:

Gather materials
There are many types of projects your teens may partake in. Some may involve craft-oriented supplies such as poster board, printer paper, markers and glue. Others are research-based and result in a paper, so they need Internet and computer access, a notebook, writing utensils and a printer. Have your kids tell you what the project requires. If your home is not already fully stocked, see if others in the group have the items they are missing. Then, make a trip to the store if necessary.

Plan the project
A good group assignment requires planning. Each person should have a specific role, like one does research on a topic while another creates graphics. The members should play to their strengths and make sure to spread out the work evenly. Creating a plan helps clarify any potential miscommunications and misunderstandings. Plus, this way the teens aren't just floundering and wondering where to start. They can instead write out clear steps from getting supplies together to completing the project. The group should also note meeting times and anything that the collaborators should do on their own.

Talk through problems
Every member of a group project isn't going to have the same level of understanding as his or her classmates. It's normal that one or two people will naturally lead  the rest. This can lead to trouble, as they may become frustrated with the other group members for not pulling their weight. On the other hand, the leaders may take the reins and not let others participate at all. Teachers assign group projects because they want everyone to work together and put in the same amount of effort. This way, each individual learns something and benefits from the collaboration. Students who see these issues happening should speak up. No one or two people should complete the project without the help of others.

One way educators may address the issue of distributing work is through surveys. Many teachers have each student complete a survey on his or her peers to get a feel for who was pulling his or her own weight. This might even affect the group members' grades. If your kids have problems like the ones above, they should write about the issues on the survey. If the students can't solve the problem within the group, they should discuss it with the teacher right away.

Present the project
Most group projects end in some sort of presentation. This may mean a speech, discussion or going over a graphic. The teens should practice what they'll say and do to quell nerves and ensure they touch on the most important parts of the project.

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