Students are barraged with assignments these days. But the skills they need to succeed later in life just don’t come from books and tests. Students need to learn how to work with others. Teaching teamwork is critical to help students grow as people and learn to get along with others.
Just putting students in groups is not enough. Students need to be taught teamwork skills. Activities such as group projects and games teach a wide variety of teamwork skills.
Listening is the most important skills in teamwork. Students need to listen to each other. They also need to be able to speak without being interrupted. This is critical for active discussions. One way to teach listening is using a “talking stick” or other designated “talking object”. Whoever holds the “talking stick” gets to speak. All the other students must listen. When the student is finished, the talking object is passed to the next student to speak.
Along with listening, students need to learn to speak with each other effectively and respectfully. Many students do not have issues talking to each other in casual conversation. They need to learn that they have to respect each other when working together as a team. There can be no “trash talking”, yelling, or name calling. Students also must learn to express their ideas quickly and succinctly. No one wants to sit around and listen to someone rambling. Ideas need to be presented clearly and in order as well. It helps to have students to either write down the main points of what they want to say or use graphic organizers to get their thoughts together.
Confidence is a personal ability but students need it to work in groups. They need the confidence to express their ideas and defend them if needed. They also need the confidence to accept criticism and not be offended or take it personally if someone doesn’t like an idea. This can be a long process and some students will need a lot of coaching to build up their confidence. Likewise, Over-confident students can quickly overshadow lesser confident students or quieter students and they need to realize the feelings of others.
Other aspects of teamwork that you can discuss with your students are respect, leadership, roles and responsibilities. Students need to take turns being the leader and doing different roles. Like tasting food, students should try a role at least once, even if they are sure they will not like it.
Teamwork can be a rewarding experience in the classroom but remember it takes time. Introduce it to your students slowly with games and short assignments. Don’t expect them to form perfectly working teams from the start. Over time, your students will learn valuable teamwork skills that will last time a lifetime.