Have you ever reflected on something and realized if you changed one simple idea your lesson would have worked out sooooo much better? The past two weeks (read more here) I have focused the bulk of my attention on creating and fostering relationships between my students as well as between myself and my students. I have been using different teamwork/cooperative activities to help the students work on communication, cooperation, and problem-solving. The lessons were fun, engaging, and overall successful. We were able to authentically speak about introverts verse extroverts and how boys may have the tendency to be louder or more assertive than girls. This brought us to the point that everyone has ideas on how to solve problems or meet the objectives.
There was something absent though. We were talking the talk but not necessarily walking the walk. They discussed how to work as a team but they weren’t executing teamwork skills at a high level. What was the missing piece? Then the lightbulb went off. I hadn’t given them the steps or scaffolded how to engage in teamwork. There was no gradual release method being implemented. I figuratively threw them in the water and said go swim. Most students were drowning.
It was then that I realized the one simple change that I could do that would make a world of difference. I gave them steps on how to work as a team. This ensured that everyone had a chance to see teamwork in action and truly understand what it looked like.
I started out by giving them 5 steps.
Step1: One person must state what the problem/objective of the group was. Once they finished step one they were to stand up or give me some signal they were ready for step two. I required a check in before they could proceed to the next step to ensure 100% they were following along.
Step 2: Every person had to have a chance to either give their idea, agree with someone else’s idea or state that they had no ideas of their own on how to solve the problem/objective. I did this so that every student quiet or loud had a chance to give their idea and make a contribution to the group.
Step 3: The group had to choose one hypothesis they believed would work the best. I allowed them to vote or use any other fair way to choose the attempt at the solution. I was worried this would be a problem. It wasn’t
Step 4: Attempt to solve the problem using the voted on solution.
Step 5: If the solution worked reflect on why it worked. If it did not succeed discuss why it didn’t. Sometimes execution of the solution was the problem. If that was the case they could choose to use the same hypothesis and fix the problem. If the group wanted to go in another direction due to the loss of faith in the original solution they could choose to move on to the next most popular solution.
Some of you may be shaking your head and wondering why I didn’t have a system set up like this from the beginning. I honestly had not realized that students may not have been trained on how to work in groups before. Now that I reflect, that one change could have made my whole unit much better.
Q1: How do you introduce teamwork to your students?