Back to School means back to thinking of ways to get your kiddos to work together.
Here are just a few ways you can easily encourage student collaboration.
#1: Teach and Practice Team Building Activities
Many teachers incorporate trust and team building activities at the beginning of the school year. That's truly too bad. Such important skills are learned when we make them work in groups. A simple task of creating the tallest tower with index cards can become a teachable moment about attitude, communication, and cooperation.
My class has a team building activity every Friday. I give them the task, sort them into groups, and let them try to complete the task. After about 10 mins into the activity we stop, reconvene, and discuss what's working well and what we need to fix. I send them back and we finish out the activity. We then meet one more time as a whole class and compare experiences. By doing this my students are encouraged to give constructive feedback to one another. They LOVE it and some of their answers are incredibly insightful!
#2: Team Writing Activities
I know you're probably thinking... writing? How does that encourage collaboration. Here are some ways I create collaborative moments between my students while including writing.
- Mind Map: Students are given a topic to write about as a group. They are all held responsible for the big anchor chart turned in.
- Pencil Talk: Sometimes I encourage my students to work collaboratively but without SAYING a word. They must communicate solely by handwriting.
- Morning Message: I've been utilizing my hectic morning time to have my students respond to a prompt, question, or job left on the board. They then have to work in their group to complete the message.
#3: Make Feedback Fun
If you have not heard of TAG Feedback, you are missing out. When my students work in partners I will sometimes ask them to use this method of giving academic feedback becauase it helps them be specific. First one partner watches what the other is doing. When the person finishes they tag the observer. That's when TAG comes in.
- Tell the them something they did well.
- Ask them a question about their thinking.
- Give a suggestion.
#4: Partners Can Make the Best Coaches
I'm sure you're thinking, "I already have my kids in partners." Well, I do a few extra things that help foster more collaboration. When I'm pairing them up I think about the purpose of the partner work. That helps me decide whether to do ability pairing or just randomize it. Regardless I then have my students practice watching and coaching one other as they take turns working. This is not an easy skill but if you put it in the context of sports they get it. For example, if you were playing football your coach will show you the steps to throwing the perfect spiral but they will not throw the ball for you. The same goes for partner coaching. The coach has to flip their own paper over so they're not tempted to cheat, and then they become the expert. The other student can ask questions or for suggestions. Then they switch.
Good luck and happy collaborating this new school year!