If you were a fly on my classroom wall, you would see desks in groups, students working together throughout the day. Beyond cooperative groups the students sit on the floor 1-2 times per day. Reminder: I teach upper elementary. While on the floor they talk with various partners depending on the color or shape (Sit Spots) on which they are sitting. Several times a week, student mix up by roaming the room and when the music stops or I say, "freeze" they find the closest person. Paired students share their learning.
Cooperative groups have a 0.59 effect size. Groups of 4 increases effect size to 0.69 It is worth the effort to take the time to teach students how to work together. Kids need time to talk and feel like they belong. This is especially important as peers become their focus in mid-elementary. Plan for these students to have time to build friendships and accountability for each other.
Probably the one activity I have seen cooperative groups thrive upon is the test autopsy. A test autopsy is simply taking time after a test to work through the assessment as a group. The entire group is responsible for assisting each other figure out answers. There are several strategies for completing autopsies. Find one that fits your style of teaching.
What ways do you encourage students to build relationships within your classroom?