Tag Archives: collaboration

When Project Teams Don’t Get Along!

This past week I was leading an SEL workshop with a group of teachers in New Mexico. We were discussing strategies to build the SEL competency of Relationship Skills, particularly communication and collaboration, and I shared some sentence stems that I use to teach students how to redirect group members when they are off task or not completing their work.

One of the teachers, Thomas shared a technique called OFNR, part of Non-Violent Communication by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. He pointed out that my sentence stems reminded him of it, and that he had been successfully utilizing OFNR in the classroom and with his personal relationships for years. Here is a quick summary of what OFNR means:

1. Observation

The first step is to state your observation of behavior without judgement:

“When I see/hear/notice ________________…

2. Feeling

Next share how that action makes you feel. It could be a positive or negative feeling:

…I feel_____________…..

3. Need

Then explain what you need from them (think Maslow’s hierarchy here):

…because I need/want/value ______________.

4. Request

Then make a specific request based on your need. It cannot be a demand, and you must be prepared for the person to say, “no.”

Would you be willing to …….

Student Examples in PBL

When I see your part of the project is not done I feel frustrated because I want to be successful in this class. Would you be able to finish it by tomorrow?

When I hear you say “I am lazy” I feel worthless. I want to get my work done but am unsure how to get started on my task. Would you be willing to help me?

When you listen to my ideas I feel like a valuable member of the team. Can I share my perspective a minute?

When I notice you watching videos I feel stressed because I need help completing the research. Would you be willing to pause and help me finish the task due today?

When I am interrupted I feel disrespected, but I want to contribute my ideas. Can I share my thoughts completely?


I thought it was great to find an expert validating my experience in the classroom: when students share how other people’s actions make them feel, it can be a powerful motivator for change. Empathy is important to teach and model, leading to higher functioning groups.

OFNR is not some kind of magic formula that works every time. It is sentence stems to help students clearly communicate issues with each other in a respectful manner. Some students avoid conflict, letting their frustrations stew below the surface until they blow up. Other students may use judgmental or hurtful language to attack one another. Many students have never been explicitly taught how to resolve conflict and resort to limited tools that they have. OFNR is a mindset that directs people to explain an issue so it can be addressed without it turning into an emotional argument. It recognizes that both people in the situation have needs that they are trying to meet. Sometimes the needs are divergent and sometimes the way students seek to meet needs sabotages the group. Calmly and clearly identifying needs leads to an opportunity to find common ground toward a solution.

What about you? How do you teach students to work successfully in groups?

Learn with me!

Interested in more SEL and PBL tips? I continue to offer virtual and in person coaching and workshops throughout the school year outside of my teaching commitments and am now scheduling for the summer! Let’s chat about how I can customize learning for your school.

Top 5 Posts of 2021

So 2021 wasn’t the great improvement over 2020 that we all dreamed of. I definitely struggled to blog as much once school started this fall. (Much of my energy was concentrated on an upcoming book…stay tuned).

But we still discussed some important ideas as we shift to what learning can be. Check out the five most popular posts of the year with a bonus post at the end!

5. Why You Should Ban Debate in Your Classroom

Our society is polarized enough. Instead of debate focus on teaching students to dialogue and appreciate the nuance of multiple perspectives.

4. Taking a Stand Does Not Imply Bias

My reflection on the January 6th Insurrection at the U.S. Capital building. My hope that there is not a “celebration” of this day by some this coming year.

3. Why I Hate Grading, But Love Assessment

They are not the same thing! Formative assessment should be continuous and inform every teach move.

2. 7 Remote Feedback Protocols

Protocols give structure to PBL, helping all students successfully engage in the project. These protocols work great in person or on-line.

1. 10 Ways to Introduce PBL & SEL Culture

Rebooting after winter break is a great time to build culture with one or more of these activities.

Honorable Mention:

5 Social Distancing Group Work Strategies actually comes from 2020, but it was the most visited post of the year so check out some ideas for students to collaborate while following Covid 19 safety guidelines.

Interested in more SEL and PBL tips? I will continue to offer virtual and in person coaching and workshops throughout the school year outside of my teaching commitments.