In fourth grade, the kids spend a great deal of time working on projects together in groups. They talk, listen, bounce off ideas, analyze, and encourage one another to become the best that they each can be. Learning to collaborate and be part of a working group is a skill that is important to learn right away, and it was our focus for the past four days.
Each student was put into a working group and then given a challenge. On the first day students were given 20 minutes to build the tallest cup tower. We let them go at it and watched them jump in with little to no thought about their approach or about working together. We spent time after reflecting on what each group thought they did well, what they wish they could have done better, and what they would do differently next time.
They were then given the task of building a tower out of pasta, tape, and string that could hold a marshmallow on the top. Again students were given 20 minutes, but this time each group sat and planned their approach before they ever began touching the supplies. They communicated different ideas. and some even went so far as to give everyone in the group a role to play. When the challenge was finished, students again reflected as a group what was successful and what wasn't. Most recognized that this challenge was more difficult, and yet somehow it went more smoothly than the day before!
At the end of this challenge we asked the students to do a written reflection of how they thought they used the 6 collaboration skills this week. I was excited to see the students using specific examples of how they listened or how they were respectful to others.
Although we won't be doing daily challenges on a routine basis anymore, group work will not being going away. The skills that the kids learned this week will follow them throughout the year. Hopefully you can incorporate these ideas at home as well. If your child is working or playing with friends or siblings, I encourage you to remind them of the things they have learned this week and ask them how they can use these skills at home as well.