5 Ways to Foster Collaboration in the Classroom

Working with others can be a challenge, especially when there are multiple personalities. Being able to collaborate with others is a skill that is increasingly being sought after in the workplace. Are you doing what you can do help your students grow that skill? Here are 5 simple and easy things to do to help foster collaboration in the classroom.

1. Put your Students into Groups

The absolute first thing you need to do is to get your students physically sitting in groups. If they are still sitting in rows, pull those desks together ASAP. Rows are for testing, not for learning!

2. Give them an Opportunity to Get to Know each Other

Don’t let the fact that your students have been in the same class since the beginning of the year fool you into thinking that all of your students know each other. You would be surprised that many do not even know each other’s name. If you want them to work together, they need to know each other and establish a relationship. Use a quick 5 minute get to know you activity. Have your students pick a team name to give them something that will unite them.

3. Give your Students Team Roles

This is a vital step in getting all of your students to participate. Often times, there are students who want to sit back and allow everyone else to work, and there are some who want to work, they just don’t know how to contribute or to initiate conversation.

4. Give your Students Sentence Starters to Initiate their Conversation

A lot of times, when you say “go!”, students will just stare at each other. (cue cricket sounds) Give students sentence starters to get their conversations going! Its as easy as having 5 bullets of what you want the conversation to be about and having students picking what they want to share.

5. Practice Conflict Resolution

Every once in a while, students are going to fight and argue. Use this as an opportunity to use conflict resolution. As a class, come up with 2 steps that students will do prior to getting the teacher involved. This can include using sentence starters, group/ peer mediation, cool down time, etc. It’s important for students to know there are ways to resolve their conflict.

The Science Behind Chalk Talk

Students don’t get many opportunities to use chalk, so when you say, “Hey kiddos, were going outside to play with sidewalk chalk”, don’t be surprised if you instantly become everyone’s favorite teacher. As the weather starts to warm up, it’s the perfect time to get your students to go outside to show what they know by drawing models or examples of the science topics you are studying. Chalk Talk science task cards combine art and science. Each science topic contains 20 task cards with a drawing task (the chalk part) and a discussion question (the talk part). There are over 15 Science topics to choose from. Here’s why they work.

1. Students Love to be Outside

Learning doesn’t always have to happen in the classroom. Take your students out on a beautiful day, the sunshine will invigorate them and motivate them to try something new.

2. Students get to Draw

No, this isn’t your normal textbook/worksheet day. This is a fun day (or at least that is what they think…) Drawing is just another way for students to show what they know. Instead of drawing a model on a sheet of paper (yawn…bor-ing), think of how exciting it will be to draw a large-scale model with chalk!

3. Requires Students to Speak

Students will also get an opportunity to practice their communication skills when the answer the discussion question that goes along with their drawing.

4. Makes the Campus a Colorful Place

The art that the students make is truly beautiful and creative.  The chalk stays on the sidewalk until it gets washed away by the rain (or unless you wash it away). You can have different classes put their artwork in different areas of the campus grounds like car rider line, bus ramp, front office, cafeteria, etc. so everyone can see your student work displayed!

5. Art work becomes a Review

After all the students are done in the class, you can have a gallery walk. Every time a student passes some art work, they will stop to check it out. Students will be so excited to show their friends their drawings. It’s like a constant review for students (without having to say, “Take out your notebook and review your notes.”)

Chalk Talk Tips:

Chalk is cheap

You can get a giant tub of 20 pieces of sidewalk chalk for $1.00 at the dollar tree.

Use sidewalks

The beautiful thing about using sidewalks as your canvas is that it is already divided- no complaints about other groups’ drawings invading another group.

Have different classes draw in different areas

This prevents students from copying other groups from another class.

Have a bucket of water/ spray bottle

You can’t exactly erase sidewalk chalk. The only way to get rid of something written with chalk is to get it wet.

Check out the full list of Chalk Talk Task Cards including Chalk Talk Task Cards for State Testing


State Testing Tips and Testing Motivation

I’m sure that your students have heard test taking tips and strategies every year, from every teacher since the moment they were old enough for state testing. They are told it (shoved down their throats) so often, it starts sounding like requirements and one more thing they must remember and do, instead of helpful ways to prepare and be successful on the test.  I’ve created a free Test Taking Tips color sheet for your students to take the edge off of testing. It allows your visual learners to read the tips and your students the opportunity to color, which can be calming during this stressful time. If you are limited on time (cause you know… state testing and all) just send the students home with it. They’ll read it- I promise. Some students have too much time? Its perfect for early finishers.  I’ve listed a few of the tips below. Which tips do you think are most important to hit home with your students?

1. Eat Breakfast

2. Take Small Breaks

3. Pace Yourself

4. Answer Carefully

5. Check Your Work

Enjoy this Test Taking Tips for Students freebie. You may also enjoy these State Testing Motivation Posters and Signs.