Friday, August 29, 2014

Group Collaboration- Week 1 2014/2015

Well, we finished our first week of school with great success. I am sure that like me, your children are tired and happy to have today off to recoup from the week's activities. I enjoyed meeting all of the students, and I'm excited to really dive into the learning next week.

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.
 The second day. students were asked to discuss the previous days activities and talk about what they learned from their successes and failures. I was in awe of how intuitive most groups were. They mentioned listening, cooperating, planning, taking turns, sharing ideas, not getting frustrated, and many more thoughts that surpassed my expectations.

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!
 The third day, we introduced the key component to group work: communication. In this challenge students had to simply communicate their ideas and come with a group consensus. As you know, this can be one of the greatest challenges of any team building exercise. The students talked about how to be good listeners: face one another, eye contact, repeating what people said, asking clarifying questions, and they discussed how to talk: take turns, use a talking stick, share only one idea at a time, use eye contact, be positive, and provide evidence.
 On day four, we put it all together. We introduced the six qualities it takes to be a skillful group member. Then we challenged the students to work together to build a lego model. Simple right? Not quite. The model was in the front of the classroom, and students couldn't take it back to their table. They each had all of the pieces needed to build it, but they could only send one person up to the model at a time. This challenge takes great communication and listening skills and is downright impossible if you can't work together.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Great way to kick off the new school year. Everyone looks engaged and challenged!