Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Teach Children to Collaborate

Collaborating while learning to garden. 
We may often remark that he or she is not a good collaborator. Yet when we state that, what do we mean?  What does it mean to be an effective collaborator?  This is a critical skill in today's world due to our increasing populations, ready information streams, evolving interdependency, and need to collaboratively solve complex problems.

To teach well today means that we will purposefully develop students' ability to effectively collaborate.

As I reviewed the start-of-the-school-year agenda this morning, I began to look at the details of the first weeks of school lessons, the all-important six weeks that Ruth Charney outlines in her book, Teaching Children to Care. 

As I looked over the many lessons included in the Learning to Learn curriculum, I was prompted to give greater shape and order to the area of collaborative skill.

In order to do that, I took the attributes outlined in a Forbes article, and created a student survey. Willingham affirms the use of question/answer surveys as one way to strengthen learning in his book, Why Don't Students Like School. I will ask students to take the survey in September, January, and June. I will also use the collaborative attributes list on the survey form as a reference point for our grade-wide biography framework.

As an educator who is moving from the isolation of schools in the past to a learning community that requires regular, thoughtful collaboration, I too will give the survey careful consideration and attention as I hone my own skills and abilities in this area.

In order to promote students' future success, we need to pay attention to the way we foster, teach, and engage students in the study and practice of collaboration. Beginning with a student survey and focused attention to collaborative attributes is one way to begin this effort in your classrooms and school.

As always, please let me know what you would add, revise, or enrich to make this study more meaningful. I look forward to your share.

Link to Survey Activity, Simply click "file" and "make copy" to personalize the document.

I was unable to teach this activity as planned. The problem with the "Learning to Learn" curriculum has been the time to teach it all and the students' readiness for so many concepts at once. Instead I find myself chipping away at each attribute and skill with regular focused attention through discussion, video, and activity. As I think to the future, I'm wondering how we can blend these activities into our Open Circle activities for greater learning.