Teaching Collaboration Lesson Plans: Elementary, Middle and High School
Teaching Collaboration Lesson Plans UPDATE July 19, 2021: Back to School is a great time to set classroom routines and expectations.
This school year, let’s explicitly remind our students HOW to collaborate.
(And, how collaboration is different from communication.)
Group work is tough.
Just because students work in groups, doesn’t mean they are working well.
- I’m not talking about if they are arguing or getting along.
- I’m talking about the way they work in groups to get the job done.
And, even if they are working well, it doesn’t mean they are actually collaborating.
Teaching collaboration skills in the classroom means thinking about HOW we contribute in groups.
Teaching “collaboration skills” and “teamwork skills” does not mean the same thing!
I used to think teaching collaboration skills meant the same thing as teaching teamwork skills and group work skills.
But I spent some time researching this learning strategy. And I had a huge ah-ha moment.
Collaboration and teamwork do not always mean the same thing.
Are we teaching collaboration?
Or are we teaching our students to simply get along and be polite?
There is a difference.
While it’s important to get along, collaboration means creating new understandings to a problem or task.
And that means, disagreeing and finding ways to combine opposite points of view.
Sometimes, students want to avoid conflict because they want to get along.
But passively smiling and agreeing with everyone may not lead to collaboration. (Check out this lesson about 4 different styles of communication. Communication is different from collaboration, but the two go hand-in-hand!)
Teamwork Lesson plans in the classroom should focus on the difference between collaboration and teamwork
Here’s the key idea that we can start teaching in our middle school, elementary and high school classrooms.
Collaboration and teamwork is more than just getting along with our partners.
Both teamwork and collaboration are about the entire group working towards a common goal.
But, collaboration is also about how we share ideas and create new understandings in our group.
If we use criteria to figure out if something is “collaboration”, then there are 3 parts to teaching collaboration skills for students.
You need to:
- share ideas
- create new understandings
- work on a common goal
Teamwork is when you are part of a group.
But HOW are you creating “new understandings”? That’s the key piece of collaboration.
Let’s take a step back and look at group work / teamwork.
Add this to your teamwork and collaboration vocabulary list. There are 3 different teamwork styles:
Group work doesn’t always mean the group is working. Or that collaboration takes place.
As teachers, when we watch students participate in a group, we’re often looking from a classroom management perspective:
- Are students “working” and on task?
- Do group members distract others?
- Are they distracting themselves?
Yes, task management, independent work and cooperating with others are important learning strategies.
However, a collaborative learning lesson plan should go one step further.
Instead of just looking to see if students are on task in the group, let’s also look to see HOW they are working together.
Just because students are talking and working together, doesn’t mean they’re collaborating.
Likewise, just because the class is chatty doesn’t mean they’re not focused and talking about work.
- In fact, students working in a group could be coordinating – the strong students are telling everyone else what to do.
- Or, students might just be cooperating with each other. Everyone is focused on completing their own homework, but in a group.
- Or, students might actually be collaborating in their groups..
There’s a subtle and important difference between the three styles of group work: coordinating, cooperating, and collaborating.
Not all of them involve working towards a common goal.
Our group work lesson plan can help students recognize there are different ways of working in a group.
Group work does not always work, you know?
Our collaborative learning lesson plans should include the following:
Have a look at your group work lesson plan.
- Reflect on their own group work style?
- Develop a growth mindset?
- Recognize that we can use specific collaborative learning strategies to become better at collaborating?
- Understand that collaboration is different from co-ordination and co-operation?
- Understand that collaboration is not the same as communication. (Although you do need effective communication skills to be able to collaborate well with others.)
Teaching Collaboration Lesson Plans – QUICK LINKS
- What is Collaboration? (CHAPTER BIG IDEA):
- Collaboration is NOT the same as teamwork!
- Get 1 week of COLLABORATION SKILLS lesson plans
- Who is this COLLABORATION SKILLS lesson plan package for? How does this help improve group work in my classroom / school?
- SAMPLE ONE WEEK game plan: (8 COLLABORATION SKILLS lessons)
- HERE’S WHAT YOU GET when you download the COLLABORATION SKILLS zipped file:
What is Collaboration?
(Group work lesson plan “big idea”)
After this chapter, students will be able to explain that Collaboration is about:
- Working with others
- To create something new (a new understanding, a new plan, a new idea)
- using a shared goal
Students will have the opportunity to:
- EXPERIENCE an opportunity to collaborate (and not just work as part of a team)
- WATCH examples of collaboration where disagreement amongst the group eventually creates new knowledge and understanding.
- UNDERSTAND what “collaboration” is by using a vocabulary building graphic organizer (Frayer model) to brainstorm features of collaboration, examples and non-examples of collaborating with others, and finally narrow down essential characteristics of the word.
Collaboration is NOT the same as teamwork!
I know. We thought it was the same thing, too!
Teamwork lesson plan? Collaboration mindset lesson? Teaching collaborative skills lesson? Group work lesson plan?
What’s the difference? Potato, potato, right?
But, after really getting into designing this collaboration lesson plan and looking at other people’s points of view, we started to realize that collaboration is just one (of three) teamwork styles!
Check out the Seapoint Center for a great post about the confusion between cooperation, collaboration, and co-ordination vs teamwork.
There are 2 key concepts we explore in this package:
- What are “collaboration” strategies that we can use to get things done?
- This continues the “growth mindset” from our “Week of Character” package
- What are 3 different teamwork styles, including “collaboration”?
- Collaboration – working as equals, creating a new understanding / plan / idea
- Coordination – teamwork through implementation of a plan. (We have a shared goal, but we’re not creating a new plan / understanding. Simply executing a plan.)
- Cooperation– sharing ideas / resources, but we have individual goals, and we support each other and their goals. (We might end up creating something new)
Get 1 week of Teaching COLLABORATION SKILLS lesson plans
Teaching Collaboration Skills in the Classroom means:
- Introduce the concepts of collaboration and provide 5 different strategies to try as they work their way through a word jumble task. (Activity 1)
- Allow students to discover different styles of teamwork by playing with words and grouping different examples of teams. For example:
- explore Collaboration, Coordination, and Cooperation through a series of Minecraft videos,
- allow students to do a gallery walk activity applying their understanding of teamwork styles.
- analyzing video clips explaining which teamwork style is exemplified in each clip.
- Provide discussion points of collaboration in different scenarios by watching and analyzing YouTube videos
- Allow for deeper exploration of the concept of “Collaboration” by playing with the vocabulary term using the Frayer Model of understanding
We provide over a week of lessons to teach COLLABORATION learning skills with your class to help them start to think about how to get things done, and how working in a group doesn’t always mean we are collaborating.
You get a total of 184 slides and pages across 8 lessons.
Each group work lesson plan is between 40-50 min long.
We go through ALL 8 LESSONS in more depth at the bottom of this page.
Teaching Collaboration Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Handouts:
- 5 different word jumble activity handouts (and answer key) to allow students to see if their teamwork is collaboration.
- 1 create-your-own word jumble activity handout
- 5 DIFFERENTIATED versions of a teamwork styles handout + answer key
- 9 “team examples” photos for a gallery walk activity
- Vocabulary Builder graphic organizer (to develop a deeper understanding of what Collaboration means.)
- Student Self Evaluation of their “Collaboration” Learning Skill
- Chapter Review assessment and answer key of possible answers
3 different versions of this Teaching Collaboration lesson slideshow (117 slides):
You get the following:
- A link to the Google Slideshow so you can show it right away. (Get started in seconds!)
- A link to a version of the Google Slideshow that you can make a copy of the presentation. (Edit the content to fit your exact classroom needs.)
- A powerpoint file that you can download (PPT) and modify. (Edit the presentation to fit your needs, and use the presentation when the internet is down!)
Who are these COLLABORATION SKILLS LESSON PLANS for? How does this help IMPROVE GROUP WORK in your CLASSROOM or SCHOOL?
Teachers could use this group work lesson plan package in their classrooms. Teaching collaboration skills for students means getting them to realize that it’s more than just about working in a group or “teamwork.”
When we are working in groups, we may not always be working towards a common goal.
(We may simply be cooperating and working towards individual goals… while sitting close to each other – relatively speaking. Pandemic and all that jazz.)
Successful collaboration is about coming up with new understanding – not simply cooperating with others to reach individual goals, or coordinating others to implement a plan (to reach our common goal).
Teamwork activities for high school
For older students, it might be good to frame these teamwork and collaboration activities in terms of life skills and work skills.
There is a time and place that you want to just co-operate and get things done.
- You have a work task to do.
- It’s not important to you.
- You don’t love the people you’re working with.
- Just get it done.
There are also times when you want to co-ordinate.
- If you’re mass vaccinating a country or community, you don’t really want an open-ended discussion involving the entire country about how to do it.
- At this point, we’re really looking at implementation of the plan.
- So co-ordination might be the best teamwork strategy.
But, if you want to truly generate new ideas and to solve problems with genuine buy-in from the people involved, collaboration is ideal.
If we look back at our country vaccination example…
- Figuring out how to vaccinate an entire country would have happened a lot earlier during the planning stage.
- This is where you would want true collaboration where input from the entire group helps create a new solution. This solution is brand new. It didn’t exist before the group work, but came about because of the group work.
- Hopefully, the group involved knowledgeable people with different points of view.
Older high school students might appreciate teamwork scenarios they can relate to. And teamwork just means any time you’re working with someone other than yourself.
Most high school students will probably think teamwork, as in class group work or working on a sports team.
But, if you’re in a relationship, that’s also an example of teamwork
Here are some 4 examples of high school teamwork that students don’t really think of teamwork:
- Your boyfriend / girlfriend / romantic partner wants one thing, but you want another. How can you come up with a solution that works for everyone?
- A bunch of friends are bored. How do you decide what to do?
- You have a new project to do – how should you best go about getting it done?
- You and your friend are making a YouTube / Instagram / Tiktok account. How do you create content?
Chances are the Word Jumble activity will instantly reveal students default teamwork styles.
Middle school Homeroom / Advisory teachers
- Do this group work lesson plan package in the first month of class, to set the gold standard ideal for what group work looks like.
- Throughout the year, you could ask students if they are collaborating, cooperating, or coordinating with teammates at any given moment.
English Language Arts teachers
Here are 4 ways ELA teachers can use this group work lesson plan package:
- Reading – Read a sample text to compare and contrast ideas. (Activity 2 Teamwork Styles handout)
- Writing – Brainstorm / generate ideas and group ideas (Activity 2 Teamwork Styles)
- Oral Communication – Listen to others / points of view (Activity 2 Teamwork Styles)
- Media Literacy – infer meaning from photos (Activity 2 gallery walk)
From a Bloom’s Taxonomy perspective, students get a chance to:
- List collaboration strategies and teamwork styles. (REMEMBER)
- Explain collaboration strategies and teamwork styles (UNDERSTAND)
- Watch new videos / scenarios and justify which teamwork style is predominant (APPLY)
- Compare / contrast the differences supporting arguments in a scenario for / against a specific teamwork styles (ANALYZE)
- Justify an opinion by appraising the evidence supporting and against a specific teamwork style for a given photo (EVALUATE)
- Some students will create a deep understanding (ah-ha moment) about the subtle differences between the 3 teamwork styles (CREATE)
Principals / VPs / Division leaders and informal leaders
School leaders could use this “Teach COLLABORATION Learning Skills” lesson package in their schools to create a common language for students and teachers to help everyone explore and develop a growth mindset.
Especially if your School Learning Plan (SLP) is about exploring “School Community” or “Collaboration”
- Use this package to help students learn they need to be an active participant in a group
- Community means more than simply being part of a group. You need to actively participate – collaborate, coordinate, or cooperate!
Common Language, Common Learning Goals
- This unit provides a systematic way for a grade, division, or school to explore learning skills / character development as a framework of delivering provincial / state curriculum..
- Collaboration is different from coordination, and cooperation. If all students are exposed to this language, it makes it easier for everyone to identify what stage they are at, and openly discuss how to improve.
- Doing the same (Frayer model) vocabulary building graphic organizer provides a common tool / framework that students and teachers can build around in other areas (i.e. math concepts, grammar concepts, science concepts, etc).
Are teachers at your school collaborating?
Or, simply coordinating to get a task done, or cooperating to help with individual goals.
This unit on Collaboration strategies can help both students and teachers to start to reflect on the differences between collaboration, coordination, and cooperation.
Ultimately, this chapter is meant to kick off a year / lifetime of discussion, as opposed to being a one-off activity.
If all classes start off with the same approach, then throughout the year, as teachers do different activities, you could still connect it back to concepts of teamwork.
SAMPLE ONE WEEK plan: (8 COLLABORATION SKILLS lessons)
Here’s a week of Collaboration Skills lesson plans. It’s based on a 50 minute class period and has around 40-45 minutes of content per lesson.
Depending on your teaching style, how often you see your class, and classroom dynamics, you may find that you can get through all 8 lessons in 5 days… or that these collaboration strategies lessons stretch out to two full weeks.
Heck, if you’re teaching middle school homeroom / advisory classes, then you might be able to stretch these collaboration skill lesson plans out for months if you only have homeroom/advisory class once per week!
TEACHER TIP: If you’re short on time, pick and choose which teamwork examples to show your class, and which videos to watch.
PART 1. EXPERIENCE
DAY / LESSON 1 – Word Jumble (slides 1-21) – 45 minutes total
- Introduction of collaboration (slides 1-3) – 5 min
- Divide students into groups and solve word jumbles (slides 4-8) – 15 min
- Open discussion about collaboration (slide 9) – 5 min
- Give 5 strategies to try (slides 10-21) – 20 min
DAY / LESSON 2 – Word Jumble Round 2 – Strategies (slides 22-30) – 50 minutes total
- Introduce challenge & review strategies (slide 22-27) – 10 min
- Creating own jumbles (slide 28) – 15 min
- Present your best jumble (slide 29) – 15 min
- Discussion which collaboration strategies you used (slide 30) – 10 min
DAY / LESSON 3 – Teamwork Styles Round 1 (slide 31-49) – 50 minutes total
- Collaboration is not the same as teamwork – 4 corners activity (slides 31-36) – 15 min
- Brainstorming examples of teams / groups (slides 37-39) – 10 min
- Photo Analysis – 9 Team Examples (slides 40-49) – 25 min
DAY / LESSON 4 – Teamwork Styles Round 2 (slide 50-66) – 50 minutes total
- 3 styles of teamwork: collaboration, coordination, cooperation (slide 50-55) – 15 min
- Discuss answers (slide 56) – 5 min
- Reflect on your teamwork style during the Word Jumble activity (slide 57) – 5 min
- LDShadowLady overview (slide 58-60) – 1 min
- Cooperation video clip (slide 61-62) – 8 min
- Coordination video clip (slide 63-64) – 8 min
- Collaboration video clip (slide 65-66) – 8 min
DAY / LESSON 5 – Teamwork Styles Round 3 (slide 67-83) – 50 minutes total
- Explain gallery walk / review 3 styles of teamwork (slide 67-70) – 5 min
- Gallery Walk (slide 71-79) – 20 min
- Discuss answers (use slide 71-79 again for discussion)- 5 min
- What style is this? (slide 80-83) – 20 min
- Video 1. Big Hero Six – first battle
- Video 2. Big Hero Six – second battle
- Video 3. Toy Story 2
PART 2. WATCH
DAY / LESSON 6 – Collaboration Strategies in Video Clips (slides 84-94) – 40 minutes total
- Review collaboration strategies / 3 styles of teamwork (slide 84-86) – 4 min
- Video 1 Big Bang Theory (slide 87-90) – 18 min
- Video 2 Oceans 11 (slide 91-94) – 18 min
PART 3. UNDERSTAND
DAY / LESSON 7 – Vocabulary Builder (slides 95-111) – 40 minutes total
- Introduce Part 3 – Understand (Vocabulary Builder) (slide 95)
- Graphic Organizer set up (slide 96-97)
- Minds on (slides 98-99)
- Filling out the graphic organizer (slides 100-103)
- Revising graphic organizer (slides 104-108)
- Summary (slides 109-111)
DAY / LESSON 8 – Self Evaluation / Review – (slides 112-117) – 40 minutes total
- Student Self Evaluation (slide 112-116) – 10 min
- Chapter Review Test (slide 117) – 30 min
HERE’S WHAT YOU GET in the Teaching Collaboration Lesson Plans Google Drive folder
Printable PDF lesson plan
This lesson plan is available in PDF format for printing. Pretty.
- 117 Slides!
- Customizable Powerpoint PPT file so you can change the slideshow to fit your classroom needs.
2 Google Slides links
- 117 Slides!
- Get a Google Slideshow link so you can present the slideshow as is (right away without any changes)
- Get a different Google Slideshow link to make a copy in your own Google Drive and modify it to fit your specific needs.
HANDOUT: Word Jumble (PDF and DOCX)
- 5 different pages based on different themes
- 10 word jumbles per page
- Answer Key provided
- Create Your Own Jumble worksheet handout
HANDOUT: Teamwork Styles (Differentiated Handouts) PDF and DOCX
- There are 5 differentiated versions of this handout. Choose the one most appropriate for your class.
- This is an opportunity to differentiate for different learners.
- Answer Key provided
GALLERY WALK: Team Example Photos (PDF)
- 9 pages of different teams
- What teamwork style could this be?
- 8.5 x 11 colour pages
HANDOUT: “COLLABORATION” Vocabulary Builder (PDF, DOCX)
- Frayer Model graphic organizer for COLLABORATION
- Discussion points provided
HANDOUT: Collaboration Learning Skills Self Assessment (PDF, DOCX)
- Student Self Evaluation of their “COLLABORATION” Learning Skill at the end of the week.
- Use the same handout at 3 different times in the term to get diagnostic, formative, and summative information to help with Learning Skills comments for the Report Card.
HANDOUT: Chapter Review Assessment (PDF, DOCX)
- 6 short answer questions to see what students remember from the week’s worth of lessons.
- Answer Key is provided.