Teaching students classroom collaboration is such an important part of teaching. It doesn’t matter if teachers are trying to prepare students for today’s workplace or just how to get along with others; students need to be proficient collaborators. Educators recognize this skill as so important that the Common Core State Standards has a category under the Listening and Speaking section called “Comprehension and Collaboration” in every grade level from kindergarten through twelfth grades.
For nearly two years now this skill has been neglected. Whether students have been taught at home or in school with social distancing, it has not been safe for students to work closely together. As of November 10, 2021, the CDC reported that 14.7 million (59%) of adolescents aged 12-17 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, with a safe vaccine for 5-11 year-olds, students will soon be able to work in small groups once again.
This means teachers will be able to add collaborative exercises to their lesson plans. The big problem now is where to begin. With students so out of practice with collaborating, teachers will need to start with small simple steps and build up slowly.
Get the handout with student activities here.
First Steps – Getting Used to Working in Small Groups
Begin with small simple group activities that are not graded. This can be done by simply having students number off into groups: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… All the ones move to this location; all the number twos move to this location, and so on. Have students complete short, fun activities.
Suggested Activities for Beginning Classroom Collaboration
Place a stack of task cards with store-purchased or teacher-made board games in the center of each collaborative group. Students must answer a task card question before taking a turn while playing the game.
- Have students brainstorm a topic that is going to be introduced in an upcoming lesson.
- After a lesson, students can respond by getting into collaborative groups and listing what they have learned or writing questions they still have on the assigned topic.
Next Steps – Holding Students Accountable
After students have worked in small groups a few times, they should be ready for a project that holds them accountable. At this point, teachers may need to plan groups. One way to group students is by learning styles. Give students a survey to discover learning preferences. Teachers can find these surveys on the web. Here is one from Education Planner.org. Another way of grouping is by interests. A survey with “Would You Rather” questions or “My favorite — is — .” questions is easy to create depending on your course of study. Ability grouping is also a popular choice for grouping students. With ability grouping, teachers can place students that need to be guided through projects with students that are great leaders.
Setting up Collaborative Groups
Are you looking for a quick and easy way to get students into small groups? If so, check out this blog post, Collaborative Groups Made Simple.
Suggested Activities for Accountability in Classroom Collaboration
The first graded assignments should be individual. Here are two example projects that students will love doing.
One project idea that holds each student responsible for an individual grade is writing about superheroes. Assign a different superhero to each collaborative group. Have students within their group brainstorm details about the assigned superhero. Take these facts to the copier machine and make copies so that each student has a list of notes from their brainstorming session. Next, have students write a paragraph based on the notes. Require students to use a specific number of details, not all, in their writing. Use these paragraphs to teach the following:
- Paragraph Structure – topic, detail, conclusion sentences
- Sentence Problems – stringy sentences, run-ons, sentence fragments
- Varying Sentences – different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex) including varying sentence beginnings.
After students write their individual paragraphs, have them meet back with their group members for editing and improvement suggestions.
Bring in an assortment of doughnuts – one for each student. Place a plate with the doughnuts in the center of each group – no touching. Assign each student in the group a different type of paragraph to write.
Descriptive Paragraph using Vivid Imagery – Have students describe eating doughnuts using all five senses.
Informative Paragraph – Students write a paragraph telling historical or statistical information about doughnuts.
Persuasive Paragraph – Persuasive writing can be a traditional persuasive paragraph, an ad for a magazine or newspaper, the script for a television commercial, or even an advertising jingle.
Narrative Paragraph – Students write introductory paragraphs set in a doughnut shop or a story about a group of people visiting a doughnut shop.
Sequential Paragraph – Students write the steps for creating and decorating doughnuts.
After writing, students can enjoy eating the doughnuts.
Encourage students to help one another by taking two grades. Take one grade on the personal writing assignments. The second grade is based on the group average. Since all paragraph writing assignments are different, this means students are better able to help one another without copying each other’s work.
Final Step – Classroom Collaboration Group Project
After students have worked in small groups playing games, brainstorming, helping one another, etc., they should be ready for traditional group projects. These include multiple parts with each student being accountable for completing at least one.
Literally, thousands of projects can be completed in collaborative groups. Assigning group roles is important to make sure each student is accountable.
Group roles can vary. Here are the most popular:
- Materials Keeper
- Time Keeper