This week during enrichment first graders have been working in small groups on several team building activities. Over the course of the week, as I taught each class, I learned quite a bit as a teacher about how to facilitate these groups. During my first class I had students working in groups of three or four. This allowed each group to meet at a table in the classroom, which I thought would support classroom management. But, what I found through these activities was that it was very difficult for groups of four first graders to agree upon ideas and strategies for carrying out their tasks together. In the next class, I divided the groups into three with some groups of two. The difference was measurable. Although we did not have tables for all groups, we were able to spread out and find separate spaces for each group. I saw a marked change in student ability to decide on plans for their group and to really listen to each other. In the first class I had to support each group in listening to each other. In the class with smaller group sizes, I was able to move around the room and listen as opposed to facilitate. This was a great lesson for me in team structuring and classroom planning....and at the same time, students really worked together on some great team challenges!
Students were asked to move an object from person to person in their group without use of their hands (students slid things across the table- pushing with their elbows, they used their feet to pick up the item, they used their elbows, or they each did something different that helped them connect to the next person!) They were thinking and supporting each other through the process. Next students created a physical movement chain reaction--in total silence. The room was full of energy, but not sound. This approach helped them to really 'listen' to each person (everyone had a role to play) and no one voice was louder than another, because voices were 'turned off'! Next the teams built machines with physical movement. We had gumball machines, candy makers, stamp machines, star wars robots, and much more! To complete the lesson, each group wrote a song about teamwork. The end product was not polished, but the discussion that went into creating a song about teamwork was excellent!
My favorite song might have been "teamwork, teamwork, we all scream for teamwork!" Because I could not agree more! The ability to work together will make a difference in student ability to thrive in school and beyond.