Q: My sixth-grade twins are honors students and are getting their real taste of group projects this semester. Should I step in when the other kids don't do their part? – a mother in Huntersville.
“I hate group projects!” That's a battle cry from a mother, not a student.
The projects are tough on bright kids who make up for slackers, says the Decatur, Ga., mother, and they “put a burden on the parents for getting the students together, driving, snacks and library trips.”
One group project tug-of-war typically uncovers the top issues: coordinating schedules, staying productive and focused, and deciding who does what. Help with logistics, but don't be too quick to jump in, some parents suggest.
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A mother in Seekonk, Mass., says that with her son's first run-in with an unhelpful team member in middle school, she opted to let it play out instead of talking to his teacher. Her son learned to select partners with similar academic goals, to have the group meet at his house, and, when given the option, to do the project alone.
But a teacher in Rhode Island suggests that parents talk to the teachers.
“I've taught high school for 12 years, and the only fair way to assign a group project is to be sure the work can be evenly divided among group members. Each member earns an individual grade. It is unrealistic to expect middle- or high-school students to be able to convince other students to do their fair share.”
A teacher in Milford, Conn., lets her students choose partners or work alone: “I tell them to make sure they pick people they know they get along with and who will do their share of the work.”
The teacher says she acts as a “project manager,” and checks in with each group as they work in class.
No matter how frustrating, team projects are assigned so students can learn about the material and learn how to work together, says a counselor in Raleigh. Those who do more will learn more.