On Friday, November 16th the 6th graders and I spent the first of six afternoons focused on building critical collaboration and group work skills.
I believe that students need time exploring leadership and collaborative problem solving in a non academic setting as well as within the classroom. In the 6th grade, we often work within collaborative groups and spend time talking about the strategies and tools effective collaboration requires. Students need repeated exposure to these ideas in order to refine and develop these important skills. Taking a break from academics for these activities removes the academic barriers some students might face in the classroom. It also builds connections between students in ways that don’t always happen within the structure of a typical academic day. When we head back to the classroom on Monday, we will have more experiences to reference, relationships to draw upon, and a deeper understanding of the skills required for our day to day work!
We started our afternoon by eating all together in the Parent Room. Tables were set with colorful paper and markers were left on the tables. Students were free to draw as they chatted and ate their lunches. We talked informally about leadership. Who do you think of when you think of a leader? What qualities does an effective leader possess? What tools or strategies does an effective leader employ?
Helium Hoop Challenge
Our first challenge of the day required excellent communication skills and collaborative leadership. Students were given a hula hoop at shoulder height and were tasked to lower it to the ground holding it with nothing but the tip of their index finger. They started in two groups of 8 and then tried as a whole group. They were extremely successful and completed the challenge within 30 minutes! They attributed their success to the following:
- Stay quiet
- Don’t freak out
- Give clear directions
- Build success on success
- Let others talk
- Ask nicely
We played a game blindfolded. Only blindfolded people could pick up nd throw balls. If anyone was hit, the team was “out” until the blindfolded partner picked up another ball. This activity built trust and required clear communication.
Our final challenge of the day was by far the most challenging. They were to get from one side of a “lava pit” to another using only 5 stepping stones. This started as a whole group challenge, morphed to two small groups, and then ended as a whole group challenge. We learned that listening to one another’s ideas and then making a decision is challenging for this group. However, once they decide on a course of action, they are quickly successful in completing the challenge!