Teambuilding that Integrates Content

Last month I posted about how to Integrate Content into Class Builders, and it got me thinking more about students interaction in the classroom. Cooperative learning theory posits that students are at their best when they move, interact with others, and have fun. This doesn't mean that everything has to be an elaborately planned activity with surprises. Instead, you can make each activity more memorable by playing to the ideas of movement, interaction, and fun with team builders.  
In the beginning of the year I have of course included lots of get to know you team builders with my students, but then I just kind of stopped. It wasn't until my last year that it kind of clicked in my head that my students needed to continue to foster these relationships with one another throughout the year.

Great I thought, one more thing to try and squeeze into our already packed schedule/ Until I realized that it wasn't one more thing, instead it was actually another, more engaging, way of doing what I was already doing, because content can be so easily integrated right into team building for a double whammy of content and social skills, because seriously, our students need social skills.
Now for a few of my all time favorite team builders that make it oh so easy to integrate content.

All Write Round Robin

This is a great team builder for brainstorming. Each student in the team will need their own paper and writing tool. After deciding who will start each student shares an idea and every student writes the idea down on their own paper. Then the turn passes to the next team mate in a clockwise fashion and the process repeats itself for as long as time allows. 

I love to use this strategy write before we begin a new writing prompt. It allows students to use one another to kind of spitball ideas and gauge each others reactions. It also scaffolds the process for students that need it when their peers model the brainstorming process for them. In the end, each student has a list of ideas to work from.

Talking Chips

This strategy is great for making sure that every student participates. It really eliminates the hogs and logs scenario that can often happen when your students work in groups. 

Each student gets the same number of "chips." I usually used math manipulatives such as counting cubes or blocks because I saw no reason to purchase chips when these did just fine. When a student is ready to answer a question they place their chip in the middle of the table and answer. Each student is only allowed to answer with the use of a chip, so once their chips our out they are done. It also works the other way that students have to use of all their chips, so they are unable to just stay quiet. 

I have also used this strategy during small group time when I have a student that is either always answering or never participating. By placing the initial expectations on the chips, it helps students to understand equal participation.

Numbered Heads Together

This strategy may be my favorite of all team builders, because it really allows students to explain their thinking and scaffold one another's thinking. For this strategy students each have a white board and work out their own answer to a question. After each student has time to answer the question the teacher announces "Numbered Heads Together" and students reveal their answers to one another. If they all agree they erase their answers and wait to share with the class. If anyone on the team disagrees then the team mates have to talk out their thinking until they come to a consensus. 

I have heard some of the absolute best conversations between students while using this strategy. I like to use this strategy with pretty tough questions, such as these Multi-Step Word Problems that really require students to dig in and think about how they arrived at their answer, as well as be able to explain it to their team mate.

If you are looking for more information on cooperative learning strategies, check out this post on cooperative learning basics

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