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Teaching Collaboration Skills

January 9, 2018 / by Lily Jones

We all want our students to work together. But how do we do it? True collaboration is much more than just having students work with each other. As teacher David Olio points out in this video, students often learn most deeply from their peers. Spending time teaching students how to collaborate will positively impact students’ learning.

But just as there is no one way to collaborate, there is no one way to teach collaboration. Use these tips to try out new ways to encourage students to work together!

Working Individually Before Working in Groups

Though we want to help students learn from each other, collaboration can often be more powerful after students have time to work individually. In this video, watch how fifth graders use individual think time to dive into a math problem before collaborating with peers. Then see how this strategy is employed at the high school level by watching this video about using a 1-3-6 protocol for collaboration.

Collaborative Group Work with the 1-3-6 Protocol

VIDEO: Collaborative Group Work with the 1-3-6 Protocol

Partner Talk

Working in pairs helps students flex their collaborative muscles while focusing on just one peer. There are several different variations of the traditional “turn and talk” strategy that you can use in your classroom.

First, try teaching students explicit listening skills and talking norms to use when working with partners. Watch how one teacher uses rug partners to support her ELL students.

Warming Up with Rug Partners

VIDEO: Warming Up with Rug Partners

After having students talk with partners, consider having them turn to “second set” partners to share what they learned. This strategy helps students to use the information they learned from one conversation and apply it to a second conversation.

Second Set Partners: A Turn and Talk Strategy

VIDEO: Second Set Partners: A Turn and Talk Strategy

Small Group Collaboration

Set students up for success by teaching them how to collaborate with a small group. Watch how one teacher sets expectations by using group contracts for collaborative work. Then check out how another teacher teaches students to work in teams.

Groups are a great way to encourage students to give and receive feedback. In this video, students work together to revise and improve each other’s writing using a structured protocol.

Critical Friends: Collaborating as Writers

VIDEO: Critical Friends: Collaborating as Writers

Create a Collaborative Environment

Collaboration can be encouraged through different routines and assignments, but it can also be promoted through the way your classroom is set up. Watch how desks can be arranged in a “four corners” formation to encourage collaboration. Want flexible seating? Teach your students to make wise seating choices by sitting next to peers that they work well with.

After spending time teaching students to work together, sometimes the best thing you can do is step back — and let the groups figure out how to collaborate on their own.

Step Back: Promoting Independent Thinking

VIDEO: Step Back: Promoting Independent Thinking

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite ways to encourage collaboration?

Topics: Professional Learning, Class Culture, Lesson Planning, Video Playlist, Resources

Lily Jones

Written by Lily Jones

Lily Jones taught K/1 for seven years in Northern California. She has experience as a curriculum developer, instructional coach, teacher trainer, and is also a contributing writer for Teaching Channel.

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