“…It is never a bad thing to gain more tools for our “toolbox” while working in groups! I would love to implement this in my classroom each year, but at the beginning of school to set expectations for the year regarding group work.” -Amanda Erwin, 2nd Grade, Hopewell Elementary Some of the most successful teachers spend the first few weeks of school focused solely on routines and expectations for classroom management. They do this because when students know what is expected, teaching content is a much easier task. Preparing students for group work is a key component for a smoothly functioning 21st-century classroom. To successfully work together in groups, students must be taught how to collaborate.
Many educators assume that students come to school knowing how to work well in groups by sharing ideas, listening, and treating others with respect. This is not always the case; and, when working in small groups without proper training, chaos ensues. Some students may dominate the conversation or do all the work, blocking others from contributing and benefiting from group work. Some may sit frustrated and confused simply because they are being left out. If these kinds of behaviors can be avoided, there is great potential for authentic learning to take place. Seeing this potential, ISA dove into the latest research in the field while taking time to observe what was already working in our practice across the 19 districts we were involved with. We found several key elements that, when taught explicitly, made an impact on classroom culture regardless of the subject area. Building on those elements, ISA worked with educators to develop a toolkit and online training that could be easily implemented in any classroom – TeamBuilders 2.0 was born. As one of our teachers said, “Students improved in communicating ideas, working towards goals, and empathizing with others. The knowledge carries over into other classroom areas” (Kelly Pratte, Kindergarten Teacher, Margaret Ross Elementary).TeamBuilders 2.0 provides K-2 educators with concrete tools for creating collaborative classroom cultures. With easy-to-use strategies for incorporating collaboration into their entire curriculum, teachers can confidently build a foundation of skills that will help students succeed. TeamBuilders 2.0 provides teachers with easy-to-use lesson plans and materials on the following collaboration skills: Listen, Share, Help, and Encourage. Some highlights of TeamBuilders 2.0 include:
A new training platform that gives teachers access to self-paced online PD
Lessons and materials specific to each grade level
Integration with ELA and Math standards
Collaboration Nation PLN: Teachers access our peer support network
Incentives for professional growth: After implementation, teachers may engage in advanced study of collaboration practices and earn recognition for exemplary work
Creating a collaborative culture within classrooms and schools is not necessarily an easy task, but it is an important one. It takes understanding, commitment, and a great deal of modeling and encouraging. It is also important to continuously assess and reflect your own process. One thing we know for sure, however, time spent properly preparing students to work together will result in greater student engagement and fewer disruptive behaviors during group work.