Tag Archives: communication

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.

Remote Public Presentations in PBL

This is the eighth of a series of posts about what Project Based Learning infused with Social and Emotional Learning looks like when teaching remotely. Is it the ideal situation? Probably not, but it is the reality that many of us are dealing with. I will share my ideas and what others are doing to hopefully inspire you to action.

Stale Fish

Public presentations of student’s final products is an important aspect of Project Based Learning. It gives students a valuable way to share their learning outside the classroom with the community. And we know that community partnerships are a key ingredient to motivate kids by making the work authentic and purposeful.

Whenever I share the importance of public presentations, I am reminded of the fish farm whose product tasted flat, not fresh. They made adjustments to try to fix the problem. First, they adjusted the the water temperature, hoping that would improve the taste. It didn’t work. So then they swapped all of the water out with clean water, but it didn’t help. Next they changed the diet of the fish. They still tasted stale.

Finally someone had the idea of adding a predator fish to the tank, which chased all of the other fish around keeping them active. And it worked! Now the fish were fresh as if they had just been caught in the ocean.

Public presentations are the predator fish of PBL. They create a healthy pressure on students to produce high quality work because the outside world is going to observe and critique it. We don’t want to overwhelm students with stress, but classwork is meaningless if it is only headed to the recycling bin after a grade from the teacher.

Online Tools

Online options for presentations are numerous. Students can always create slides in one of the various options from Google, Powerpoint, or Prezi. But these often get boring for both students and audiences. Try using a different tool and having students create a more specific product for their given audience. They might use Canva to create infographs, Loom to record a screencast, or Anchor for podcasts.

Don’t start with thinking about tools, but about what product connects the project idea with the local audience. What would be a beneficial artifact for the community? Then progress to what tools to use to make it and share it online.

Check out my extensive list of final product suggestions to brainstorm remote product ideas.

Link to FREE PDF of over 100 Product Ideas

Remote PBL does not need to be limited to technology products either. Students can perform a skit or poetry, record it, and upload it to YouTube. Flipgrid is another popular platform where students could post videos of hand-made products such as models, prototypes, or 3D artwork. Photos of 2D art could be posted in a million places from instagram to your school website or social media pages. Students might also choose to design their own social media campaign to educate the community about an important issue they are studying.

Impact Over Metrics

One thing to consider is who the audience will be and the size of the impact. On the one hand, if students present in a live video conference to a few professionals in the field, especially if those experts have been a part of the project all along, it can be a powerful experience. Students will receive critical feedback from the people who know the content discipline.

On the other hand, if students plan a social media campaign or post a video and it only gets 3 random views, we should question how public the presentation really is. Students should feel the impact of their work whether it is from “going viral” on a local scale or high quality feedback from experts. They need to know that their work is being seen and appreciated.

The process of public presentation builds many of the SEL competencies. Students practice and excel at communicating their ideas. They gain tons of confidence in themselves as learners from the work they create and its impact in the community. They begin to see themselves as responsible citizens and leaders who can make a difference by advocating for change. This in turn, leads students to become even more active and involved in both school and the community at large.

Questions? Interested in an SEL infused PBL workshop or consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele on Twitter.