Cooperation 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.