Let’s Cooperate! Teachers Share Tips for Cooperative Learning

9Cooperation starts at the top! Teachers who use cooperative learning in their classrooms have developed techniques that make the most of this method– and they share them. From forming groups to using rubrics, these ideas will make any lesson of a cooperative nature a little more fun! Included: Teacher tips, a rubric for grading students’ cooperative efforts, and additional online resources!

“Students, like adults, are social creatures who want some choice in their lives,” Gretchen Lee told Education World. “If we, as adults, got a job that worked like the typical transmission-mode classroom, we wouldn’t last long– sit down, don’t talk, fill out the paper, take notes, ask to go to the bathroom, three minutes between activities, and 20 minutes for lunch. How many of us would stay?”

A teacher at Old Orchard Upper School in Campbell, California, Lee uses cooperative learning to instruct sixth- and eighth-grade students in language arts and history. She prefers this method of teaching because it promotes working together and prepares students for the real world.

In Lee’s words, “Kids need to learn in a social, challenging, noncompetitive atmosphere where they feel they have both choice and responsibility. It should also be a place where different learning styles are accommodated. In my opinion, the teacher should be the coach and facilitator, not the authority around which all learning revolves.”

Well-designed cooperative learning lessons accomplish Lee’s objectives.

Students decide on goals and the means to accomplish those goals.
Students decide which roles to play to reach goals.
Students practice negotiation and social skills and evaluate both their own contributions and those of the other group members.
Students learn to collaborate and reinforce one another’s strengths and observe that people with different strengths may accomplish goals differently or more efficiently.
Meanwhile, added Lee, the teacher is seen as a helpful source of guidance who is there to make them successful, rather than a judge who hands out grades and marks papers with red ink.

“My students love cooperative-learning activities,” Lee said. “The kids bounce into my room, clamoring to know what they get to do next. The biggest excitement is when the desks are arranged in groups, and the loudest groans are when the desks are back in rows.”

The reason for some of the excitement in Lee’s classroom is a unit called “Mythology!” that Lee published on the Internet. She also has designed a poetry unit. These units combine group and individual work to accomplish a depth of study beyond what students easily achieve in whole-group work.

Study Skills Checklist

3We all learn differently, and we each have our own style of studying. No two people are exactly the same when it comes to study preferences. To get the most out of your studying, it’s important to better understand what works for you, and what doesn’t. To get started we recommend printing out the study skills checklist below. Once you’ve done this, read each statement and determine if it applies to you. If it does, then mark Y. If it doesn’t, mark N. The purpose of this checklist is to provide you a basic self assessment of your study habits and attitudes, so you can identify study skills areas where you might want focus on improving.
1. Y__ N__ I spend more time than necessary studying for what I am learning.

2. Y__ N__ It’s common for me to spend hours cramming the night before an exam.

3. Y__ N__ If I dedicate as much time as I want to my social life, I don’t have enough time left to focus on my studies, or when I study as much as I need to, I don’t have time for my social life.

4. Y__ N__ I often study with the TV or radio turned on.

5. Y__ N__ I struggle to study for long periods of time without becoming distracted or tired.

6. Y__ N__ I usually doodle, daydream, or fall asleep when I go to class.

7. Y__ N__ Often the notes I take during class notes are difficult for me to understand later when I try and review them.

8. Y__ N__ I often end up getting the wrong material into my class notes.

9. Y__ N__ I don’t usually review my class notes from time to time throughout the semester in preparation for exams.

10. Y__ N__ When I get to the end of a chapter in a textbook, I struggle to remember what I’ve just got done reading.

11. Y__ N__ I struggle to indentify what is important in the text.

12. Y__ N__ I frequently can’t keep up with my reading assignments, and consequently have to cram the night before a test.

13.Y__ N__ For some reason I miss a lot of points on essay tests even when I feel well prepared and know the material well.

14. Y__ N__ I study a lot for each test, but when I get to the test my mind draws a blank.

15. Y__ N__ I often study in a sort of disorganized, haphazard way only motivated by the threat of the next test.

16. Y__ N__ I frequently end up getting lost in the details of reading and have trouble identifying the main ideas and key concepts.

17. Y__ N__ I don’t usually change my reading speed in response to the difficulty level of what I’m reading, or my familiarity with the content.

18. Y__ N__ I often wish that I was able read faster.

19. Y__ N__ When my teachers assign me papers and projects I often feel so overwhelmed that I really struggle to get started.

20. Y__ N__ More often than not I write my papers the night before they are due.

21. Y__ N__ I really struggle to organize my thoughts into a logical paper that makes sense.

If you answered “yes” to two or more questions in any category listed below, we recommend finding self-help study guides for those categories. If you have one “yes” or less in one of the categories, you are probably proficient enough in that area that you don’t require additional study help. However, no matter how you score it’s always advisable to review all study guides to help you improve your study skills and academic performance.
Time Scheduling – 1, 2, and 3.
Concentration – 4, 5, and 6.
Listening & Note taking – 7, 8, and 9.
Reading – 10, 11, and 12.
Exams – 13, 14, and 15.
Reading – 16, 17, and 18.
Writing Skills -19, 20, and 21.