Group projects are an inevitable part of school life—sooner or later, you’ll find yourself having to work with other students in order to accomplish a common goal. That goal is usually to get a good grade.

Teachers give group projects mainly because they help you to learn how to get along and work with others, which is an important skill for life after graduation. Being in a group also helps you accomplish more things and to become more responsible. This is because you’re not just working for your own success, but the success of everyone else in the group.

Working with other people isn’t always easy, however, and in school projects, you won’t always get to choose the people you work with. Sometimes, even when you do choose your group members, they won’t always work the way you thought they would.

But when a group works together well, and you know that you did your share to help the group become successful, it can be one of the most rewarding school experiences. Check out these suggestions to help you make the most out of group projects:

1 Take the lead.

If nobody in your group wants to take the lead, then you might as well take matters into your own hands. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to be pushy or bossy; it just means that you take on the responsibility of making sure that everyone has something to do to help complete the project, and making sure that everyone gets their share done.

It’s a lot of work, and the kind that most people don’t want to do, but if you don’t find a way, chances are that no one will. Why leave your own grade to chance?

2 Have a game plan.

Even if you’re not the group leader, it’s a good idea to get everyone to set—and agree on—the standards that the group will be following while working on your project. Obviously, a great grade is going to need some extra effort on everyone’s part. Then, as a group, draw up a plan where you list down the things your group needs to get done.

Find out what everyone is good at (or is willing to do) then divide up the work accordingly. Don’t forget to schedule when each member is supposed to do what.

3 Keep tabs on what everyone’s up to.

Again, this goes for whether you have become the group leader or not. As you go along, find out how everyone is doing, and whether everything on the list you made is getting done on time. If you find out that someone is falling behind with their work, ask everyone else in the group what can be done so that work on the whole project doesn’t get affected.

It’s a good idea to have these group updates regularly, instead of finding out at the last minute that not everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing.

4 Give everyone a chance.

It’s a group project, after all, and that means everyone in the group should have a chance to be heard. Sometimes, it can’t be helped that one or two people end up talking more than the rest of you, and that they turn out to be so persuasive that everyone just ends up following them. Try to make sure other people get a shot at offering suggestions, and see if there’s something you can use in each suggestion.

For your part, try and make the best suggestions you can, and try not to pick on the ideas of others. Don’t discourage or distract other group members or interrupt them when they’re speaking.

5 Keep your cool.

So what do you do with group members who just won’t cooperate? A good idea would be to start out by talking to those group members privately. Again, this doesn’t mean being bossy or pushy; it just means asking—quietly—whether they have any problems that are keeping them from working on the project and whether there’s anything the group can do to help. The main thing to remember is to stay calm.

If talking privately to those group members doesn’t fix things, then it’s time to discuss things with the group. Try to resolve things within the group first, before talking to your teacher about what’s going on.

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