Chapter 1 is intended to show why studying small groups is important, especially for someone who wants to succeed in modern society. The exercises are designed to encourage students to think about the pervasiveness of small groups in their lives, the reasons they join groups, and the needs groups fulfill.
1. Argyle, M. (1996). Five Kinds of Small Social Groups. In R. S. Cathcart & L. A. Samovar (Eds.), Small group communication theory and practice (7th ed., pp. 25-32). Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark. Defines and discusses dynamics of the family, adolescent friendship groups, work groups, committees and related groups, and training and therapy groups.
2. Palazzolo, C. S. (1988). The Social Group: Definitions. In R. S. Cathcart, & L. A. Samovar (Eds.), Small group communication theory and practice (5th ed., pp. 6-9). Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark. Clearly written definition of group, bases for forming groups, and group characteristics.
3. Shaw, M. E. (1981). Group Dynamics (3rd ed., pp. 8-11). New York: McGraw-Hill. Discusses how a small group becomes an entity in a way that should help even the most skeptical of students accept the reality of small groups.
4. Bormann, E. G. (1990). The Nature and Development of Group Discussion and Small Group Communication. In Small Group Communication: Theory and Practice (3rd ed.). New York: Harper and Row. Discusses the history of the field of small group communication; includes discussion of the special theory of small group communication that emerged after World War II.
5. Larson, C. E., & LaFasto, F. M. J. (1989). Results-driven Structure. In Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong (pp. 39-58). Newberry Park, CA: Sage. This short paperback is similar to an “in search of excellence” for small groups. The authors examined a number of different kinds of groups and draw conclusions about what makes a group highly productive. We strongly recommend this as supplementary reading material; the information can be used to enhance your presentation of several of the chapters in this text. This particular chapter makes the point that the group’s structure must fit its purpose; there is no one perfect structure suitable for all groups.
1. You and the Group, a two-part filmstrip and cassette program, fifteen minutes for each part. Focuses on the functions of primary groups in our lives. (Human Relations Media)
2. Understanding Working in Small Groups, a thirteen-minute video that focuses on participation in task-oriented groups. It also suggests ways to improve small group communication (Harcourt Brace communication video series)
3. A number of fairly recent films touch upon the importance of groups in our lives. One such film is Uncle Buck, which deals with family relationships and how individuals find their niches in the family grouping. Other films include Finding Nemo, which chronicles the story of “the Tank Gang” and Signs, which reveals how one family comes together to combat personal and public tragedy. Another film, Stepmom, starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon, is an emotionally gripping film about how a family adjusts to a divorce and remarriage. It shows how a primary group can be redefined, particularly when the mother and the stepmother forge a friendship after learning the mother has cancer.
4. We sometimes show Part 1 (“An Ineffective Problem-Solving Discussion”) of the videotape ancillary Communicating Effectively in Small Groups to generate a discussion of what constitutes an effective discussion. We sometimes break the class into groups of four or five and ask each group to generate a list of problems they observed in the video, and what might be done to solve the problems. This activity helps introduce students to the major concepts to be discussed during the semester, shows students what they already know, and reinforces their own common sense in applying the material from the text. (Brown & Benchmark Publishers)
5. Short Takes includes a segment that depicts both a primary and a secondary group by showing two students, Lynn with her family and Michael with his group of best friends, and then showing both of them in a committee meeting. Questions to consider:
4. Do you think computer-mediated groups should be classified as small groups? Why or why not?
1. Icebreakers. Here are two icebreakers different from the one in the text. We have used them numerous times with good success in reducing primary tension.
A. Breaking Boundaries: A Structured Conversation
Instructions: Read each question, asking each person to answer briefly, honestly, and without explanation with the first response that comes to mind. Point out a different person to begin responses to each new question, then go around the circle clockwise, as quickly as possible. Everyone is to answer every question. If your class is very large, you may want to use only some of the following questions:
1. Whom do you think Time magazine should name “Person of the Twentieth Century”?
2. What is the best movie you ever saw?
3. What would you be willing to die for?
4. What is the ugliest thing you know?
5. What is the most beautiful thing you know?
6. What TV program do you most enjoy?
7. If you could be an animal other than human, what would it be?
8. What is the most important thing that guides your life?
9. How do you select your friends?
10. What is your favorite sport?
11. What is your biggest worry?
12. What do you think other people like most in you?
13. What do you think other people like least in you?
14. When do you feel the very best?
15. What one day in your life have you most enjoyed?
1. What person in the group did you learn most about?
2. Who do you think was the most honest?
3. What image did you want to project to other members?
4. What answer surprised you the most?
5. Who pays the most attention to what is going on?
6. Who enjoys life the most?
7. Which person in the group is the most like you?
8. Which person in the group is least like you?
9. What answer from another person pleased you the most?
Now, for general comment: How do we feel about this class?
B. Getting Acquainted
Instructions: Give each person in the class a list of the following fifteen characteristics. Ask the students to find someone in the class with each characteristic (a different person for each). Give prizes (cookies or candy, trinkets, gift certificates to fast food restaurants, etc.) to the students whose lists are most complete.
2. Logs of group participation: Ask each student to keep a log of every small group in which s/he participates, for one week. Have the students discuss their experiences in class. This is frequently a revealing exercise for the students.
3. Ask each student to make a list of the three (or more) most important groups to which s/he belongs. For each group, ask the students to describe how and why they came to join the group, what needs of theirs are being met by the group, and what needs are not being met. Have the students share their information with each other, either in small groups, or with the entire class.