Working Together (Again)

Outcomes for Mind Missions learning

Whether working remotely or distanced from their peers, students have forgotten skills for working well with others. 

How can we help students to refresh skills essential to working with teams?
First, name the problem with students

Open a discussion up about ways that working with others changed in the last year. Identify areas where growth is needed.

Some skills needed for effective teamwork include:

  • Good manners 
  • Established ground rules
  • Understand group roles
  • Listening well
  • Speaking skills
  • Body language basics
  • Perspective power
  • Compromise Coaching

Tackle each skill with three steps.

  1. Give Direct Instruction- Help students to understand specific ways to master the skill that you are highlighting to improve teamwork.
  2. Practice the Skill- Ask students to pay particular attention to the skill while they are participating in a collaborative learning activity.
  3. Reflect and Record- Ask students to reflect on their success and their team’s success in managing the highlighted skill. Ask them to record their learning.


Skill #1 – Manners Review

  • Look people in the idea when they speak
  • Say please and thank you
  • Take turns when you are talking
  • Offer to help clean up
  • Share

Skill #2- Ground Rules

Ground rules are helpful for any class or team discussion. 

These guidelines will govern class discussions and hold students accountable to appropriate behavior.

Skill #3- Clear Roles

Identify roles needed for a group task. Assign roles to encourage full participation. 

Roles also help students to identify all of the tasks necessary to complete a goal. 

Setting the goal and roles helps students to build metacognition. 

Skill #4 – Listen Well

Listening is is more important than speaking. Teach active listening with 5 steps:

  • Make eye contact
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Ask questions if needed
  • Repeat back what you think the speaker said.
  • Get clarification for total meaning.

Skill #5 – Speaking Skills

Teach students the 3 essential elements of expressing an idea or argument (SEE):

  • State (What do you think?)
  • Explain (Why do you think that?)
  • Evidence (Tell me concrete facts that support your reasoning.)

Skill #6 – Body Basics

Teach students to be aware of their body language! Non-verbal communication can be as important as the words that you say.

  • Practice open and relaxed posture
  • Smiling with your eyes
  • Turning your body toward the person speaking
  • Nodding to show that you are listening. 

Skill #7 – Perspective Power

Understanding multiple ideas and differences of opinion benefits the group. Seeking a variety of perspectives also helps teams to find the best solution.

Challenge students to spend time brainstorming and sharing ideas before beginning work.

Skill #8 – Compromise Coaching

Teach students to reflect on common ground and compromise.

  • After students have had an opportunity to share by listening and speaking, give them quiet time to reflect on common ground and areas of compromise. 
  • Then, share their thoughts. Name commonalities in ideas. Find the path.


Strategies to practice Team Skills

  • Jigsaw– Give each group a different topic. Re-mix groups with one planted “expert” on each topic, who now has to teach his new group. (Speaking and Listening)
  • Human Tableau– Groups create living scenes  which relate to the classroom concepts or historical events. (Perspective/ Compromise)
  • Group Investigation – The class is divided into teams. Teams select topics to investigate, gather information, prepare a report, and present their findings to the entire class. (Ground Rules)
  • Newscast – Newscasts are written and produced by teams of students. Newscasts can either be about current happenings or be used to explore historical events. (Roles/ Body Language)
  • Numbered Heads Together- Each student is assigned a number. Members of the group work together to agree on an answer. Teacher randomly selects one number. Student with that number answers for the group. (Perspective/ Compromise)
  • Story Circle
 – One person begins a story about the topic and stops after a few sentences. The next person picks up the story thread and continues it, then stops. Repeat until story resolution. (Listening/Speaking)
  • Stick Together! – Students individually fill out potential solutions on post-it notes. Team up in groups or 4-5. Post-it notes are grouped “like with like.” Patterns and relationships in the groups are observed. (Manners)
  • Board Rotation – Assign groups of students to each of the boards you have set up in the room (four or more works best) and assign one topic/question per board. After each group writes an answer, they rotate to the next board and write their answer below the first, and so on around the room. (Manners/ Roles)


Ask students to reflect on their progress in developing each skill. Think-Pair-Share or use a Writing Prompt to aid students in reflective practice.

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