Teamwork is a learned skill.
Children in a group need opportunities to practice group tasks while being cognizant of the fact that their goal is to be a team. They need to associate the outcome as a team effort. Being put together in a classroom is not always a clear enough signal that teamwork is expected, especially since there are so many personal expectations of each child. Organized exercises allows children time to focus on this skill set of teamwork.
Children need multiple opportunities to foster growth.
People learn well when repeatedly confronted with similar challenges, especially when given the time to come up with responses and then to review these responses (in this case as a group). Incorporating creativity and identity into these exercises maximizes the opportunities for learning as well as making the learning experience more engaging.
A healthy team is self-sustaining.
Practicing working in teams exposes children to the experience of building a self-sustaining group. Classes that are allowed to practice this skillset and are encouraged to maintain them boast healthy behaviors such as helping each other and respecting the class (including not disrupting a lesson). A teacher in a class like this will find that he/she is resolving much less personal problems at inappropriate times since many problems (including emotional ones) will be resolved in a team.
For This Tool You Will Need:
- A2 sheets
The Initial Exercise
Divide everyone into teams of 4-6, providing each group with a set of crayons and A2 sheets.
Instruct the teams that they will be competing to make Finger Flowers with stenciled imprints of their hands and that they will be given extra marks for unique ideas. Everyone's hand must be used to create the artwork.
Allow the teams 30 minutes to prepare their Finger Flowers, answering no questions. Note the dynamic of each team, leading voices, style of collaboration, participation level of the least active person, negative interactions, troubleshooting abilities, time management, equality of voices, and so on.
Pass the finished finger flowers to an impartial judge that did not watch the group interaction.
While the judge chooses the picture that looks the most like a flower (giving special consideration to creative flourishes), have a 10-15 minute discussion about the dynamic of each group. Start by asking them what they think their strengths were, and then the things that they need to work on. Ensure to give your own input.
Have the judge call the winning team, explaining why they picked that picture.
Variations to The Initial Exercise
Creating an Identity
The same as the initial exercise but this time tell the teams that they need to incorporate elements in the picture that identifies the uniqueness of their team, including a name.
Creating a Philosophy
The same as the previous exercise but with two additional group tasks prior to getting the supplies:
Fifteen minutes to choose the team philosophy, structure, and practices. For younger children just ask them to create a catch phrase/motto. For even younger children, ask them to choose a team animal and say why they chose it.
Fifteen minutes to plan how to approach the task.
Coming Full Circle
The same as the previous exercise but first have a half hour discussion about how these exercises relate to the whole classroom's day to day. What is the whole teams strengths and what do they need to work on? Ensure to give your own input.