These days, teachers are encouraged to get their students to collaborate as much as possible in the classroom. This is now especially the case in middle schools as children at that age will feel and experience many benefits. As a teacher, it’s your job to encourage students to work together so that they can get as much as possible from teamwork. Whether it’s a collaborative poster, a science experiment or a jigsaw activity, classroom collaboration is a great way to ensure that each student has a chance to be heard.
Why Is Collaboration Important In The Classroom?
There are a number of different reasons why collaboration and teamwork within lessons is such a useful tool for in the middle school classroom, but here are some of the main ones.
It Improves Social Skills
When kids are working together and are encouraged to discuss a wide range of topics, you should see that their social skills start to significantly improve. Collaborating will bring children from different backgrounds and different learning styles together and encourages them to work together. In order to solve problems and complete their project or activity, they will need to be open and good communicators. They’ll then be able to use their improved social skills in various parts of life. Open communication is essential.
It Helps Kids Build Trust
It’s impossible to work well with someone and not trust them, so children will find that working in a more collaborative way will really help them to build their trust in others. By being more trusting, they will also find it easier to accept help from others, which can help them team meet their collaborative goal together.
It Creates An Engaging Learning Space
Many children find that they are engaged a lot more with their work when they are collaborating which makes for a very positive learning environment. When you put students together in small groups, each individual will have the space and time to express their own thoughts and ideas about the work. This will give them a feeling of value as they know they are being heard, which should make them a lot more motivated with their classroom work.
It Helps Students Increase Their Confidence
Students will support one another when working in a team, and this can help spread confidence throughout the group. You should see that students are more likely to take risks – if these risks pay off, then the students should be left full of confidence. Collaborative groups often offer a more relaxed learning style which provides a positive learning experience.
How Can You Promote Collaboration And Teamwork?
On the face of it, teamwork should be simple enough to establish in the middle school classroom. Depending on the group of students, though, some teachers actually find it quite challenging. Here are a few quick tips that should help you promote the collaboration in your classroom.
Now that there are a lot of digital tools available to promote learning in the classroom, it can be all too easy to get kids to work on computers on their own. However, if you ensure that any collaborative work involves plenty of discussion, then you should find that the students are a lot more likely to want to talk and work together on their work. Teamwork introduces skills such as communication, listening, compromise and collective effort.
Everyone Needs To See Each Other’s Work
You should also make sure that the students can see what everyone else is doing as part of their collaborative teamwork. If students can see each other’s work then they will be more likely to want to discuss their thought process. Try incorporating a gallery walk to allow students to see what other groups are doing. You could also display the work on the overhead or hang it up. This is a great way to prompt a discussion with the whole class.
Design Tasks That Promote Teamwork
When planning your lessons, it’s worth throwing in a few tasks, no matter how small they might be, that promote teamwork amongst your class. Even if it is just a short discussion regarding a topic or subject that you will be covering in the lesson, it will still be a great way to encourage more teamwork within the classroom. The more of these kinds of tasks you can add to your lesson plans, the better, as it will get your students thinking a lot more openly and critically in a range of topics.
Assign Group Roles
It is important to ensure that each student feels like they belong in the group and that their input is important. Assigning group roles is a great way to make sure that each student has a task that needs to be completed in order to finish the final collaborative activity or project. Try roles such as recorder, time keeper, writer, reporter etc. Group roles are an effective way for teachers to monitor the whole class. Group roles help keep the students on task. Students can choose their own roles, have them assigned by the teacher, randomly pick them or alternate through different roles.
Establish Group Norms
Establishing group norms creates accountability for everyone. These norms should be created before the collaborative activity begins to ensure that all students know the group expectations. Group norms may include that one person talks at a time or no put downs are allowed. Students are encouraged to respect each other’s opinions.
Introduce Collaborative Posters
Students work together to color one piece of the poster puzzle. When everyone is done, they have to work as a team to put the poster puzzle back together. This is a great introductory teamwork activity. Collaborative Poster can be used to introduce or review content. The result is a beautiful, fun, one of a kind pop-art poster to hang in the hall that students and teachers will stop to admire! Teachers should create a classroom that supports persistence, effort and even mistakes.
What’s your favorite collaboration activity?