Counters in a Cup (Help them stay on task)

In my NQT year, I was privileged to have the opportunity to meet with a teacher called Laura who was fantastic at groupwork. My head of department used to work at her school and felt that I could learn a lot from going to see her and finding out what it was that meant her groupwork lessons were so effective.

Although I took away many ideas, there is one in particular which I have incorporated into my teaching and this is what I would like to share with you today.

When pupils are working in groups, I explain at the start that I expect every member of the group (there are usually four) to be contributing, I expect them to communicate well with each other and I expect them to stay focused on the task.

In order to help them focus, I put a plastic cup on the groups’ table. During the lesson, I walk around the room listening in on their conversations and observing their work and interactions. If they are meeting my expectations, I put a counter in their cup.

counters in a cup 2

At the end of the lesson, we count how many each group have and the pupils get rewarded in proportion to the number of counters (at first I used to just give rewards to the groups with the most counters, it depends on the class and the lesson). We have a ‘house point’ system at my school so I give out house points as a reward (they can buy chocolate in the reward shop for 10 house points so they love it!) and it seems to keep them on task.

I shared this idea at CPD at school and had really positive feedback from another teacher who tried it with a particularly chatty class – apparently it was the best lesson she’d had with them as they were eager for the counters so they stayed focused and worked hard. As it worked for her, I thought it might work for some of you 🙂

This story can also be found at

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