Cooperation is a skill that can be applied to a range of activities, from participating in morning circle to sitting in assembly; from participating in PE to playing in the playground; and, from completing a group assignment to reading with book buddies. Cooperation is essential for a classroom to function; the teacher(s) and students need to know the expectations and complete their role in order to meet the common goal - teaching and learning.
Cooperation is the ability to work collaboratively to achieve a common purpose or goal. Cooperation can be a challenging skill for children to learn as it relies on previously learned skills, such as taking turns, sharing, and being able to follow the rules or expectations of a game or activity. Because this skill builds on previously learned skills, cooperation is a later developing social skill. Cooperation is vital in the classroom, highly valued in the workplace and is crucial for successful relationships throughout the lifespan. Therefore, it is a skill that is well worth focusing on and improving.
There are countless ways to focus on and teach the social skill of cooperation. I’m going to share five fun activities that I have used successfully. Similar to my last two blogs, ‘Taking Turns and Sharing’ and ‘Following the Rules’, I will be using the structure of a Warm Up, Main Activities and a Cool Down.
In the warm up I define the aim of the lesson, define the key terminology, and introduce the expected language. This can be done through a brainstorming activity, giving a verbal explanation or reading a social story. For example, you could use a script such as:
Today we are going to practice cooperation. Cooperation is when people work together to achieve the same thing. Everyone has to be an active member of the team and complete their role.
To finish off the warm up, I like to do a quick engagement activity such as singing a song or watching a short video clip about the topic. A great warm up activity that can be a lot of fun is to complete partner balance activities (this term can be googled for lots of wonderful ideas). Three quick and easy ones are as follows:
Remember, the engagement activity should only be short and reinforce the skills of following the rules of a game.
The main activity should focus on practicing the skill of cooperation. Below are five fun activities to promote cooperation:
Classic Tunnel Ball
Students stand in a straight line with their legs shoulder width apart to create a ‘tunnel’. The person at the start of the line rolls the ball through the tunnel. The person at the end catches the ball, runs to the front of the line and rolls the ball through the tunnel. Repeat this process until the original leader is back at the beginning of the line. This game can be played for time - each time students to try get a faster time - or in teams to beat the opposing team. An alternative for this game is for students to crawl under each other's legs, instead of using a ball.
This is a modified version of Tunnel Ball. In this version, instead of rolling the ball through the tunnel, the ball must be passed over the head and under the legs, until it reaches the end of the line. Again, this game can be played for time or in teams. An alternative for this game is to pass from left to right, use a pattern (e.g., over-over-under, over-under-left-right, etc.,), or using a gym or fit ball.
Giant Naughts and Crosses
In this life-sized game of naughts and crosses, students use their peers to fill in a giant grid. To do this, set up a 3x3 grid on the ground using masking tape, chalk or similar. Two students verse each other in a game of naughts and crosses. Instead of drawing on paper with pen, students will use their peers by directing them to a square on the grid. That person will then sit or lay with their knees to their chest for a ‘naught’ or sit or stand in a star shape to indicate a ‘cross’. Student who gets three in a row wins!
Instead of hitting a ball over a net, like in the classic game of volleyball, teams of 2-4 people will use a teatowel to throw and catch a ball. Each member of the team will hold the corner of a teatowel (or blanket), which is to be used to throw and catch the ball. Hands may not touch the ball. If the ball is dropped, the opposing team gets a point. A net can be used, but is not essential. For some additional fun in the sunnier months, swap the ball for water balloons!
The cool down provides an opportunity for reflection and consolidation. I ask students to tell me what skill they practiced (cooperation) and ask them to talk about the experience; did they have fun, what did they find easy or difficult, what did they do well, what would they do differently next time, etc. If possible, I like to take pictures throughout the lesson and review them at the end. I find that this often sparks conversation with the class. It means I have some images for the class or school newsletter or to use as a prompt in the next writing lesson.
By working on cooperation, we are building students’ capacities to maintain meaningful relationships, participate in the classroom, and setting them up for later academic, work, and life success!
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