Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals.
Cooperative Learning is particularly beneficial for any student learning a second language. Cooperative Learning activities promote peer interaction, which helps the development of language and the learning of concepts and content. ELLs (ELL is a person who is learning the English language in addition to his or her native language) learn to express themselves with greater confidence when working in small teams. In addition to ‘picking up’ vocabulary, ELLs benefit from observing how their peers learn and solve problems.
How students should interact with one another is the point.
How teachers structure student-student interaction patterns has a lot to say about how well students learn, how they feel about school and the teacher, how they feel about each other, and how much self-esteem they have.
Assign each student in a team a role (such as reporter, recorder, time keeper, and materials manager), you might want to rotate roles each week or by activity or by project. This prevents what typically happens if students select their own roles: the same students wind up performing the same tasks. By rotating, students develop the skills they most need to practice.
There are some popular strategies that can be used with all students. Most of these strategies are especially effective in teams of four: take a look at this past post on this same blog: Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.
In this post, I am going to focus on two cooperative strategies that I found very useful with my students.
Numbered Heads Together
Ask students to number off in their teams from one to four. Announce a question and a time limit. Students put their heads together to come up with an answer. Call a number and ask all students with that number to stand and answer the question. The aim is to recognize correct responses and elaborate them through rich interactions and discussions. This strategy ensures that each member knows the answer to problems or questions asked by the teacher. Because no one knows which number will be called, all team members must be prepared.
A very useful strategy, moreover, if you have hoarders and shy students in your classroom. The hoarder likes to talk, so they are getting an opportunity to talk within their small group and even teach them. The introvert students will have to pay attention and participate because their number might be called. You have just differentiated learning.
Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece — each student’s part — is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product. If each student’s part is essential, then each student is essential; and that is precisely what makes this strategy so effective.
Assign each student in a team one fourth of a page to read from any text (for example, a narrative text or a short tale or biography). Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.
Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.
Each student presents her or his segment to the group and then teaches the others or helps to put together a team product by contributing a piece of the puzzle.
You could appoint one student from each group as the leader in order to prevent troubles (e.g., a member is dominating, disruptive or not collaborative),
After each Cooperative Learning activity, you will want to debrief with the children by asking questions such as: What did you learn from this activity? How did you feel working with your teammates? If we do this again, how will you improve working together? And finally, have students celebrate the hard work of group members.