Tag Archives: #Social Emotional Learning

10 Ways to Teach Collaboration

So you’ve gotten to know your students and created “perfect” groups based on my grouping post. Since we know that there will be team struggles along the way, how do we equip students to handle them? What strategies should we use to teach, practice, and assess collaboration? Here are ten ways to teach collaboration to your students.

1. Be intentional about your grouping strategies.

First rule for teachers is to know their students. Use this knowledge to create teams that will be effective working together. For specific strategies see my post on grouping.

2. Create group contracts.

Students will not “naturally” work together without structure. Group contracts provide a way for students to safely negotiate how they will function before beginning the actual work. Consider using talking circles to have students make their contracts more personal. Check out my detailed post for more ideas on how to make effective group contracts.

3. Assign group roles by SEL competencies

Instead of assigning students to be a leader, timekeeper, researcher, or supplier, make the roles a more significant part of the project process. Assign students to take on the role of Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, or Responsible Decision Making for their group. Give them descriptions of their competency and build in goals, tasks, and reflection questions based on their role. Not only will this help student groups be more productive, it directly teaches Social and Emotional Skills.

4. Check In / Check out

At the beginning of class, ask students to focus on one item from a class social contract or other agreement such as the 7 Norms of Collaboration from Adaptive Schools. For example, “I would like everyone to focus on #2 Paraphrasing by rephrasing what someone else says before responding with your own thoughts.”

At the end of class, students reflect on how they did paraphrasing and respond with a thumbs up or down, fist to five, exit ticket, or turn and talk. Mix it up on different days. Making this short reflection a daily practice will build the collaborative culture in your class.

5. Critique a Video

Watch a clip of the Penguins of Madagascar or Big Bang Theory with a collaboration rubric and evaluate the characters’ level of collaboration. This is an excellent way to introduce a collaboration rubric and actually get kids to read and reflect on it! Assign different students specific characters to analyze or have them consider the group collaboration as a whole.

6. Use Protocols

Collaboration works when there are structures in place. Try using the Design Thinking Process from the Stanford d.school to help students develop problem solving techniques together. Kagan Strategies provide daily structure to cooperative classroom activities. SIOP strategies are effective for all students, not just English Learners and many build collaboration.

7. Fun Videos

Watch a fun video like the Rube Goldberg one below (or Bottle Boys, Airport Flashmob, or Star Wars) that demonstrate a task that requires teamwork. Afterwards, use the CASEL framework to talk about which skills were required to create the video. Use this as a talking point later with students. When a group is struggling remind them, “Remember how OK Go had to work together to plan out all of the details of their video? I think you all, need to work together right now to figure out….”

8. Team building activities

Try the one word story, marshmallow challenge, or chopstick challenge. Any team building activity works. The important part is the debriefing, just like the fun videos above. Again, have students identify which SEL competencies they needed to accomplish the task and list them out. The challenge debrief then becomes the anchor conversation to refer back to later when a group encounters conflict in a project.

9. Personality Assessments

Have students take the Meyers Briggs Personality Test and share their strengths and challenges with their group. Understanding the profiles of everyone in the group will help to prevent misunderstandings. For example, rather than assuming a classmate doesn’t want to contribute to the group discussion, students may not have considered that someone is an introvert. They might decide to use a written brainstorming process so everyone in the group feels comfortable contributing.

Compass Points is another activity that helps people understand how different kinds of people work. Some are task oriented, where others are more people oriented. Some like to dive right in and attack problems, whereas others want to take their time and contemplate the best solutions. Some like to go deep with every detail, whereas others see big picture visions.

The beauty is that all of these complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses. The danger is that if students fail to recognize the perspective that someone else brings they can become frustrated and misinterpret their intentions. This activity helps students talk about their preferences so they can truly operate as a team.

10. Scrum boards

Scrum boards (also called kanban boards) are a business project management tool from Agile methodology. A simplified version is an effective tool for helping students from kindergarten to high school manage themselves. Students collaborate by clearly defining and dividing tasks. Then they assign due dates and track completion. Collaboration is tracked and organized by the students themselves. They are also an easy way for the teacher to check in and conference with student groups about how a project is going.

Check out this link to my free student scrum board template.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

How to Teach Students to Manage Themselves

Scrum Board via Kelly Reseigh

One reason why a large subset of students struggle in school is that they lack organization. These are the kids who do their homework but never turn it in. It is probably “lost” somewhere in their backpack. At the end of the year when these students clean out their lockers, they are full of papers everywhere that may or may not have been graded. Sometimes we forget to have a growth mindset about these kids.

Lack of organization is not a character trait that is permanent. It is a skillset that all students can learn.

In PBL, we use tools from the business world such as scrum boards (also known as kanban boards). They can take on many forms depending on the age of the students and the technology available. The basic format is four columns: To Do, Doing, Need Support, and Done.

Initially, tasks from the Need to Know list are added to the To Do column, assigned to group members, and due dates are negotiated. As students engage in a task, they move it over to the appropriate column to track progress. Scrum boards can be created online in a business tool such as Trello (student template) or on a shared spreadsheet (see below). That way everyone, including the teacher can monitor progress.

Free Download of this Google Sheet Template

For younger students or as a no-tech option, students can use sticky notes on poster paper. Another option is to create a scrum board chart on a bulletin board. No matter which format you choose, scrum boards are a great tool to teach students how to manage both their work and themselves. They give structure to goal setting and help students manage stress by creating a realistic timeline, instead of cramming it all in at the last minute.

Another version from Kent Innovation High

Student roles, group contracts, and scrum boards help students learn how to interact with each other in productive ways and invoke teamwork for successful completion of their goals. Let’s consider how these tools work together. We combine group contracts with scrum boards to make student warnings based off of work completion rather than personality conflicts. Instead of “You are annoying. I can’t stand you so I am giving you a warning,” I teach students that warnings are based off from the scrum board. 

“We’re friends, but you committed to having this task done by today and it isn’t completed. I am sorry, but I am giving you a verbal warning. And just so you know, it is really stressing me out because I care about this project and want to do well.”

The last sentence, where students express the stress and emotion that they are feeling (Self-Awareness) is key. Many times the other student may not care as much about the work personally, but will be motivated by social pressure not to let their teammates down.

Many students are uncomfortable giving a classmate a warning. One strategy I use is sentence stems and roleplaying. Students rehearse how they would handle situations by acting out scenes based on persistent issues in class. This is a safe way for them to practice and feel comfortable using effective communication to share feelings and solve group conflicts.

Free Access to Group Contract Scenarios

I like to use triads where one student takes the role of the challenging behavior and one student is enforcing the contract while the third student observes and gives feedback afterward. Choose three common situations from your class and rotate roles so everyone has a chance to practice using the sentence stems with contracts. Another variation is to have another teacher or two visit your class and the adults role play for students.

This does not have to be focused on behavior. Some colleagues of mine roleplayed how to have a five minute academic discussion so that students could see how to build off from other people’s comments and opinions.

Modeling is just as important for SEL skills as it is for content.

Try launching you class with a daily scrum meetings to teach students to track and assess their progress on their self-selected timeline. The most compelling form of evaluation is self-assessment. When a student honestly and accurately analyzes themselves, it is powerful! They can check in on their group contracts and determine whether or not they are being an effective team member. Scrum boards and contracts enable student growth in goal setting and organization leading to success that builds both their abilities and their confidence.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.