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Grades 6-8


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.
ITV Series
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 Team
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
Pre-Viewing Activities
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 the activity.
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 page.

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.
Focus Viewing
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.

Viewing Activities
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 chart.

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.
Post-Viewing Activities
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.
Action Plan
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 answer.

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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