Our inquiry into towers piqued the Kindergarteners’ interest in creating and building. Soon my students were branching off into groups and creating elaborate structures with materials found around the classroom. Some students worked really well together, while other groups were having disagreements and spent a good bit of their time arguing. I decided this would be a great opportunity to begin some collaborative work inside the classroom with the goal to support my students’ problem solving, collaboration and negotiation skills.
Over the next few weeks, the Kindergarteners had several opportunities to work in pairs and in small groups. At first, when I assigned the groups, a few students rolled their eyes, and slumped over in disappointment, because they did not get to choose their partner or get to work with their “best friend”. Then I noticed that in some groups, the children worked side-by-side building their own structures and did not communicate with each other at all. While I was impressed to see my students’ independence, I had hoped that our collaborative building time would encourage everyone to seek out true partnership. I decided to call everyone back to the circle for a meeting to learn how my students felt about their experiences. First, we had a conversation about empathy (one of Bixby’s core values), and talked about what it would feel like if someone did not want you as his or her partner. Then, we took some time to learn what collaboration and cooperation means. We decided as a group, that each team member must be respectable, listen to one another carefully, communicate appropriately, and compromise. Together we modeled what this should look like. Each team member must then work together, using one another’s strengths, to build a single structure. This time cooperation improved significantly! My students were constructively working with their peers, sharing input, negotiating turns, and reflecting on the process together. My students then had a chance to share their collaborative projects with the entire class. Later, we invited the Preschool children into the Kindergarten classroom for some collaborative building with “new” friends. Again, I saw my students try out their new collaborative skills. I heard powerful conversations between students, and observed many intricate, collaborative projects taking place.
Teamwork teaches students the important skills needed to work together towards a common goal. It enhances their social skills, and academic knowledge, by learning about each other’s thinking process. Learning how to participate in a group, and practice communication and listening skills, is a life-skill!
Kindergarten: Lead Teacher