THE ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF A GOOD TEAM
Can't I just work by myself? The answer in today's world is
"no." This lesson provides students with the skills to work cooperatively
in small groups. The students will discover that team building is a lifelong
skill not only used during scientific experiments and math problems, but
also everyday in the workplace. The students will practice using these skills
during a moon craft crash simulation. Each team must rank survival resources
to make it back to the moon port safely. In another lab exercise, each team
of students will manipulate squares and Lego® blocks to solve a group
problem and evaluate their individual as well as group effectiveness.
Econ & Me, Teacher Orientation Solutions Unlimited #1: Think,
See & So Solutions Unlimited #3: The Great Canoe Race Information Processing
#6: Speaking and Listening Information Processing #8: Your Role in the Office
Students will be able to:
- identify the attitudes, roles, and behaviors that can help groups
work cooperatively and effectively to solve math and science problems
- distinguish between independence and positive interdependence
- experience working in small groups to solve math and science problems
- evaluate interpersonal skills to determine how they contribute to
the group as a whole
- define what is meant by "good team work"
- and give several examples of how cooperative learning and good interpersonal
skills will help them solve problems in the future
- Per student: Moon Resources Worksheet Cooperative Learning Evaluation
- Per group of three: Moon Resources in Envelopes NASA Ranking Sheet
- Per group of five: Five envelopes of pre-cut squares (see Silent Squares
- Per team of five to seven students: Large number of construction blocks
in four or five colors (foam or wooden blocks, Legos®, etc.)
- Cooperative Learning - Intentional restructuring of the learning process
where students are given guidelines on how to solve a problem using the
skills and resources of the group.
- Positive interdependence - Situations in which one student's success
is linked to the success of others.
- Interpersonal Skills - Characteristics that help a person relate and
work with other people in a group.
- Active listening - Hearing what a person is saying and responding
by paraphrasing what the speaker has said, using encouragement and open-ended
questions to keep the speaker talking, and using eye contact during the
conversation. This is an example of an interpersonal skill.
Student Roles include:
Task Master - The person who makes sure the activity runs smoothly and is
responsible for communicating with the teacher.
Clean-up - The person who places all materials back to original position,
throws away any waste, and wipes down tables and equipment.
Negotiator - The person who is the liaison with other groups in the class.
Materials Handler - The person who collects materials for the group and
replaces them when the group is finished.
Recorder - The person who records relevant information related to the team
activity and reports to the whole class when necessary. Encourager - The
person who praises students for practicing interpersonal skills throughout
Observer - The person who does not participate in the activity, but takes
down detailed notes while observing the group.
In order to emphasize "two heads are better than one", hand out
a copy of the Moon Resources worksheet to each student and explain the problem.
Your students are to imagine that they are part of an international space
exploration team in the process of using a moon port in preparation for
a human flight to the planet Mars. As astronauts, they frequently fly from
a space station orbiting the moon to the surface of the moon where the moon
port is located. On their most recent flight to the moon port, their space
shuttle crashes on the moon about 120 kilometers from the moon port. The
rough landing ruined their shuttle, except for 15 items. (See NASA Ranking
Sheet, Moon Resources Sheet). Use the pictures on the Moon Resources Sheet
to prepare the Moon Resources envelopes. Survival of their team depends
upon reaching the moon port as soon as possible.
Ask them individually to rank the materials according to most useful to
least useful to the team. After the students have finished, randomly place
them into groups of three. Hand out the envelopes. Assign the same task
as before, except now they are to work as a team. Have each student compare
their original ranking with the group ranking. When the teams have finished,
give them the NASA ranking to compare with the "experts." Start
a discussion concerning working in a group versus individually. What are
the positives and negatives of group work? Discuss the difference between
working independently and interdependently.
Ask the students what role each person was responsible for in the group.
Was anyone left out? Share the various roles and definitions that you will
be expecting of the groups.
After sharing the background information of group work, place the students
into groups of five and distribute the envelopes from the Silent Squares
activity to each group. Prepare the squares ahead of time by cutting the
shapes out of poster board as shown in Figure 1 on the Silent Squares Templates
Group the pieces in envelopes as shown in Figure 2. Give the groups the
following instructions and insist that they not talk out loud to each other.
Each person will be given an envelope and a Silent Squares worksheet. The
purpose of the game is to form five squares so that each player in the group
has a square the same size. Students must maintain complete silence. A piece
may be offered to another player within the group. It must be handed directly
to the intended receiver. Players may not point at a piece to indicate they
want it. The problem is solved when each player has a square the same size.
Allow students as much time as they need to solve the problem.
If the class cannot be divided evenly into groups of five, assign any extra
students as observers. When all teams have finished, ask the assigned observer
to share teamwork input from their group. Go around the room until everyone
has provided this input. Construct a group list on the board of characteristics
that portray a good team and those characteristics that leave some people
out of the team.
Discuss the questions on the Silent Squares worksheet.
This activity is an excellent transition into the discussion of interpersonal
skills and how to use them to contribute to the group.
Discuss the importance of each interpersonal skill: staying on task, sharing
materials, praising others, encouraging participation, asking questions,
criticizing ideas, not the person, challenging ideas, active listening,
talking in quiet voices, and generating alternative ideas. Ask the students
if they became frustrated when they could not speak to one another. If they
use these skills appropriately, the group will accomplish the goal set forth
and everyone will find it a more positive experience. Both Activities were
adapted from the resource handbook, Using Cooperative Learning to Enhance
Your Science Instruction.
To give students a specific responsibility while viewing, have
each student look for characteristics that describe a "good team"
as they observe a variety of video segments depicting people of all ages
working cooperatively in groups. Each student should construct a chart that
includes each of the three categories: cooperative group roles, steps of
problem solving, and qualities of a good team. When they identify a group
role, step in problem solving, or quality of a good team, they should list
it under the appropriate category. Explain to the students that they will
get to practice these skills at the end of the video to best utilize all
their Legos® while constructing the most towers possible in color sequence.
FAST FORWARD the Econ and Me: Teacher Orientation
video segment to the point where Shirley Hartsfield, from the International
Preparatory School in Atlanta, Georgia is shown speaking. PLAY this
segment on cooperative learning. PAUSE the segment after the first
boy in the group explains the problem for the group. Ask the students to
identify his role in the group.
RESUME the video and PAUSE after the narrator says "necessary
skills to master." This is when the camera is focused on a girl in
blue writing answers for the group. Again discuss the roles and explain
to the students that although one person is writing (recorder), all students
in the group are actively involved by adding information.
RESUME the video and STOP the tape when Charlotte Pillow appears.
Share the importance of the last part of the cooperative learning model.
Encourage the students to share group work with the whole class. This gives
each student a chance to hear more input to the problem. EJECT the
video. INSERT the video Solutions Unlimited #1: Hey Wait, Think,
See, So? To give the students a focus for viewing, ask them to look
for steps in problem solving. FAST FORWARD through all the
Alexander Graham Bell excerpts because they aren't applicable to this lesson.
Show only the football and camping scenes. STOP the video at the
end of the segment and relate each step to the steps of problem solving:
WAIT -identify the problem, THINK - think over many options, SEE - try it
out/experiment, try again if needed, and SO - it worked/conclusion. EJECT
the video. INSERT the video Solutions Unlimited video segment
#3: The Great Canoe Race. PAUSE the video after students carry
their canoe over the rocks on the north face. Discuss how negative comments
can be diffused by communicating. Expressing that you are sorry that your
idea did not work helps the group to try new ideas without giving up the
task at hand. RESUME the video and PAUSE after the students
sitting by the fire discuss carrying their canoe above their heads to save
time the next day. Ask the students how positive encouraging and listening
to others' ideas helps make a better team and improves the situation. (two
interpersonal skills) RESUME the video and stop at the end of the
segment. Ask the students to share any comments they wrote on their categories
You may wish to show the two Information Processing video segments at this
time to help explain how working in groups is important in business. These
segments show an interview of an expert in the field of business explaining
the need for workers to be flexible and cooperative. Another option is to
view these and share just the pertinent information with your class or save
these videos as an extension to this lesson.
Explain to the students that they will now get a chance to solve
a problem in a cooperative group. Place the students into groups of four
to five. An easy way to break the class into groups is to use construction
paper of different colors and write the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 on a color.
Make enough colors for the number of groups you have in the class. Pass
them out randomly. The color denotes the group and the number denotes the
role. 1 is the observer, 2 the recorder, 3 the Negotiator, 4 the Task Master,
and 5 the encourager. Review the definitions for these roles.
Remind the students that everyone but the observer helps solve the problem.
Explain the problem on the board and model a tower for the class. Provide
each group with a bag of blocks (prepared before the activity). Make sure
that each bag is low on at least one color block.
Instructions for each team: Your team's challenge is to build as many towers
as you can using as many of your blocks as you can.
There are four rules for building towers: Each tower must be higher than
the previous tower. The first tower must contain at least one block of each
color. The pattern that you use in the first tower will form your color
sequence for the rest of your towers. Continue to use the same color sequence
as you build higher and higher towers. Keep asking the teacher what you
can and can't do. Your negotiator can trade for blocks from other teams.
You may want to show the students one or many examples of several towers.
Let your students know that there are many ways to meet this challenge.
For example, students can use single blocks to continue the pattern or they
can use only one or two colors per tower. The next tower must start with
the next color in sequence.
Your team needs to decide who will be responsible for each role. (or you
can assign roles as explained in #2 of this activity) Jot down roles on
paper if the team is to decide.
You will have five minutes to choose roles for your group and decide on
your plan. During this time you may not touch the blocks. Then you will
have fifteen minutes to build. (Set a timer to let everyone know when the
time is up)
Give each process observer a card with these questions on it.
How did the team decide who would take each role? Who made decisions? How
did the team decide how to build the towers? What did people do or say that
helped the group meet the challenge? Was there anything the team could have
done differently to work more effectively together?
Debriefing: Ask the process observers from each team to speak first, then
open the discussion to the whole class. Post questions on the chalk board
or on newsprint that you want to discuss. How did it feel to play your role?
How did you contribute to the success of your group? Were you successful
in meeting the team's goal? How would you assess your group's effort, 1-10?
Was your solution different than the others? Did asking questions help you
come up with interesting solutions to specific challenges? Was there any
tension in the group? Did team members have to compromise or work out differences?
Did you feel competitive with other groups? Why or why not? What interpersonal
skills and attitudes helped you work well together? If you were not satisfied
with how your team worked together, what would you do differently next time
to make your team more successful?
Make a T-Chart on the board for a "Good Team". A Good Team What
You Hear or Say What You See or Do
Adapted from Making Choices About Conflict, Security, and Peacemaking by
Carol Miller Lieber, 1994 Curator of the University for the Center for International
Studies, University of Missouri at St. Louis.
Invite several parents with varying careers to come to the classroom
and discuss how cooperative learning impacts their lives both at home and
at work.(housewives, managers, engineers, scientists, teachers, etc.) Have
the students prepare questions about roles, qualities, and interpersonal
skills that each parent finds important to succeed in their career.
Have students research successful people of the 20th century. Ask them to
write down comments that other people stated made them succeed. If possible
have the students write them a letter asking about cooperation, interpersonal
skills and roles in society.
Science: Use the cooperative learning model throughout the year
for each experiment or group assignment. The students will improve interpersonal
skills and team work by the middle of the year and your job as facilitator
will be simple.
Science and Math: Make a "teams course" outside your classroom
or at a nearby park. Provide many obstacles for the students to work as
a team and problem solve a solution. You could make a spider web out of
rope on a tree and tell the students that they must get all team members
through the web without touching the rope. They may only use the same hole
twice. Hang a log from a tree and have the students balance themselves by
sitting all members of the team on it. After each event, discuss team work
and roles each student took on to complete the task.
Math: Assign word problems to individuals and then allow them to work in
cooperative groups. Ask each group to evaluate the whole process. Open-ended
problems would be best since there are many correct ways to reach a right
Language Arts: Ask each student to write down a problem for the class to
solve in cooperative groups. Choose the best problems and have students
finish the task. Students should then evaluate their team and the problem
for a grade.
Physical Education: Discuss how cooperative learning plays a role in many
sports. Have students try not communicating during a sport to see what happens.
Assign certain students to use specific interpersonal skills well and others
to sabotage the effort. This should spark a great discussion.
Social Studies: Choose a topic of controversy for the class. Assign each
group a different perspective on the topic. Conduct a town meeting for students
to bring forth research and opinions on the topic. Ask for a group consensus
after the debate. Discuss cooperation, interpersonal skills used well, and
roles students took during the debate and research.
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