Wow has it been a long time since I've blogged! My summer vacation was taken very literally and I vacationed all summer long. But I am back and ready to share with you a collaboration project that helped me, and my students, have the best first week ever!
The beginning of the year. I am sure most all of us teachers struggle to find a team-building lesson that really requires synergy and teamwork skills. At the beginning I also want to set the stage for the rest of the year and let students know we are here to learn, but that it can be done in a fun and exciting way. So I looked at some of the skills I really want to incorporate this year: creativity, problems solving, innovation. And collaboration came up. What a fantastic skill to start out the year with, and so my Collaboration Class Pet Project was created.
To start this exciting, yet meaningful project, I first introduced collaboration. The real vocabulary, not a simplified version. I want students to get the real deal from me, not a watered down version. So we then discussed collaboration. What is it? What does it look like? How do we achieve collaboration? What do we do if we run into problems in our team? I then had students write down what it meant to them and/or how they could collaborate with their peers on a notecard, no names, and we pinned them on a bulletin board. I like to seat students in groups and those were the groups we worked in for this project.
Like collaboration projects in the real world, I set some goals and working points for the teams. Pick a class pet. Any pet, alive or dead, but real at some point in time. Research the pet. How will we feed it? Care for it? What will it's cage need to look like? Create a cage. Be creative! Be inventive! Think outside of the box, so to speak. Create a pet. Actually make the pet to go inside the cage. Create a poster. Show others your groups' pet. Let them know how to care for it. And finally Go To Work!
What's the next step? Let the teams dive in headfirst! These are the students' projects. I was there to guide and support, they were there to work. The teams immediately jumped into discussion about what pets they should have. Now, there were disagreements, which I wanted. My goal is for them to learn how to work through problems, not agree perfectly. And they did, they compromised, they discussed, they changed, just like we discussed they should do when problems arose. Proud to say no tears either! They then enthusiastically moved on to research. I gave them books and iPads and students did the simple research. Students had jobs inside their groups: recorder, materials gatherer and researchers, this helped eliminate many problems. I hope in future projects, way down the road, that students will begin deciding who should have these jobs on their own, instead of me designating. Some students had to be redirected or reminded of their jobs, but overall it went fantastically. The cage building was the most exciting part for all involved, and the most fun for me to observe. Now all students cannot be working on a small box cage at the same time, so we discussed some options for them. Maybe they could be creating items to glue in, maybe they could begin working on the poster, maybe they could be a helper with things others needed. Some students had difficulties when they were not able to have the project all to themselves, but I'm glad. I'm glad they got to find other ways to help, or they learned how to help include the other students. I'm glad they learned better ways to collaborate because that was the goal. They learned more about how to work in, and as a group.
And my favorite part of all projects? The reveal! Students went above and beyond with the projects. All teams had extremely creative ideas. They were so proud of their cages and posters and I was so proud of them. They were so excited to work everyday and I kept getting asked when it was time to work on our Pet Projects. For a first week project I think this one could not have gone better. The students got a real taste of teamwork and how I like to lead our class. I recommend this project to teachers ready for a more meaningful beginning of the year team building exercise or to any teacher looking for some fun!