Are your students struggling to work or play together? They probably need to learn cooperation. In this blog post I am going to teach you why cooperation is important in the classroom and how you can help your students learn and practice cooperation.
Why cooperation is important in the classroom
When I am teaching my students about cooperation, I first explain to them why cooperation is important in the classroom and their life. I explain to my students that we cooperate to solve a problem, complete a challenge, and play together. However, cooperation is more than just working or playing together. Cooperation means sharing ideas and materials, compromising, and being flexible. Most students get stuck on this part, so I teach them strategies for sharing ideas and materials, compromising, and being flexible.
Strategies for sharing ideas and compromising
I explicitly teach my students that when we compromise, we need to share ideas and make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak. Developmentally, young children do not understand that other people have different thoughts and ideas than they do. They need to be taught this. Simply explicitly teaching this is a perfect first step. Second, children need to be taught to listen. Many children when presented with an opportunity to cooperate, will run ahead with their idea before asking the other students if they agree. This will definitely lead to some conflicts. I teach my students that we need to check with everyone before going forward with an idea by asking each other “is that ok with you?”. After teaching my students these cooperation strategies, students need to practice.
I do love using Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns About Sportsmanship to help teach these ideas. Definitely check out their website for free video animation or you can buy the book. You can also check out my Amazon storefront for more books about cooperation!
Why is cooperation important in the classroom: Cooperative Practice
I love to introduce cooperation with a human knot activity. To complete the human knot, divide the students into two smaller groups (to make it easier for them) and then have them reach their hands into the middle and hold a hand with someone in the classroom and then take a different student’s hands. Once everyone has a hand, then the challenge is to work together to untangle the “knot”. Students will need a lot of prompting to listen to each other’s ideas and wait to try an idea until everyone’s had a chance to have their voice heard. After students finish the challenge, ask them to reflect on their experience. How did it feel to cooperate? Did everyone get to have their voice heard?
Another fun challenge is the numbers game. Students sit in a circle and the challenge is to say numbers 1-10 out loud (if they succeed, they can try to break the record of 10 and keep going!). Sounds easy, right? NO! This is incredibly challenging, because if two or more students say the number at the same time, then they lost the challenge and have to start over again at 1. After a few rounds of struggles, stop the group and ask them for ideas they have to complete the challenge. They can’t make up an order ahead of time, but they can discuss strategies to use. For example, put up a thumb when you want to say the number, or if you say one number you can’t say a second one, or raise your hand and whoever just said the number points to the next person to say a number. After a few rounds of trying a strategy, stop the class and ask them to reflect on how this challenge is going. I suggest stopping the class after this and then letting them know they can try again another day. Students tend to get frustrated when they aren’t finishing the challenge, and this is actually a good thing. It’s good to give them the opportunity to practice their growth mindset and learn that they can persevere through challenges and come back and try again. This is another reason why cooperation is important in the classroom!
One of the best reasons why cooperation is important in the classroom is it helps children play and work together! One of the ways to practice cooperation with children is to set up a cooperative play challenge. Pair children up with peers they don’t often play with. Then have them make a plan for their play (where and what will they play) and then once they both agree to their plan, they can go off and play together! Remind students to continue to check-in with their peer and make sure everyone is getting their voice heard and everyone agrees to the plan. After 10-15 minutes, you can open up the play to choice partners. You will be surprised though to see how many students continue to play with their partners who they wouldn’t normally be choosing to play with! After teaching explicitly about cooperation I did this cooperative play challenge a lot with my students, and they loved it.
Cooperative board games
A final way to practice cooperation with students is to have them play cooperative board games. Board games teach children so much, but winning and losing are their own lessons to learn and focus on. I love using cooperative board games because the students have to work together to complete the challenge. I always have a few on hand in my classroom, but whenever we have a game day, I always learn of more! Check out my Amazon store for my favorite cooperative board games.
I hope now you understand why cooperation is important in the classroom. Cooperation teaches students how to work and play with others. When teaching about cooperation, make sure to teach your students strategies to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, like by asking, “Is that ok with you?”. Have you tried out any of these practice opportunities? Which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
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