Hedge (2001) lists the following reasons for using pairwork and groupwork in the communicative classroom:
- It motivates students to work in face to face encounters in the classroom.
- It increases opportunities for practicing the language.
- It enables students to take risks with the language and to see if they can negotiate meaning.
- It gives students the opportunity to monitor how well they understand and are understood.
I agree with all of the reasons but I believe items C and D are the most important ones.
I think some students like this kind of activities because they can play and have fun and if they enjoy doing an exercise, they learn more. That would be another reason.
The disadvantages are that sometimes students don’t behave or speak in their mother tongue and complete the charts but in their mother tongue so the purpose of the activity is ruined.
I think there should be conditions to follow so students can profit from the activity. One of the conditions, for example, should be to speak in English when working or maybe telling them they can say 3 things in their mother tongue but not more than that, so they have to choose when to use their mother tongue and then switch back to English.
Hedge, Tricia (2001); Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom; chapter 2 (Discussion projects and topics # 6 - p. 73); O.U.P.