5 Engaging Ways To Get Students Working Together Plus Free Back to School STEM Activities

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This is part 3 of our four part Back to School Series! We will be talking about how to get students working together right away at the start of the school year by using cooperative classroom activities. We even have a FREE Back to School STEM resource for you that is perfect for that first week.

This series has been all about how to get your school year started on the right foot.

If you missed part 1, with ideas for getting to know your students, you can catch up here!

Find part 2 about building a positive classroom community here!

students working together

Benefits of a Cooperative Classroom Environment

Having a cooperative classroom where students work together can provide tons of benefits that make the learning experience more enjoyable for kids and foster positive social interactions. Here are a few benefits of getting students working together:

  • Students are actively engaged and learning together, leading to a deeper understanding of concepts and improved retention of knowledge.
  • Working in groups helps students develop important social skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which are skills that they will need both inside and outside the classroom.
  • When students are given the opportunity to work together it boosts student motivation and engagement, as they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their learning.
  • Students learn to analyze problems from different angles, brainstorm ideas, and make decisions together, developing their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Cooperative classrooms create a positive and inclusive atmosphere where students feel valued, leading to higher satisfaction, reduced negative behaviors, and improved well-being.

So now that you have a few reasons WHY getting students working together is so important, here are 5 ideas on HOW to create a cooperative classroom learning environment!

Play Cooperative Games

students working together

Introduce cooperative games that require teamwork and collaboration. For example, students can work together to solve puzzles, complete obstacle courses, or achieve a common goal in a physical or virtual game. Below are two examples, one for younger kids and one for older kids:

For Younger Kids: LEGO Copycat

Students are broken up into groups of 3: A looker, a messenger, and a builder. The looker is the only one who can look at the LEGO model and gives directions to the messenger who relays the information to the builder. The goal is to try and create the same model using teamwork. This same activity could be used in other ways, such as with a drawing or another type of model. Check out more detailed instructions at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.

For Older Kids: Island Survival

For this Island Survival Game, groups of students pretend that they are the sole survivors left on an island after a shipwreck. They have to work together to make decisions as they are presented with certain scenarios, such as choosing 6 things from a list of items that washed up on shore. Mrs. Fintelman Teaches has a free editable slides version of this game that you can grab on her website!

Try an Escape Room Challenge

students working together

We have mentioned escape room or breakout game challenges in several of our posts because we know firsthand how awesome they are for getting students working together to problem solve. This is a great way to bring excitement to their learning, and these types of activities really teach students to rely on each other instead of the teacher. Find out more about escape rooms and get a free breakout game in our blog post here. Our Back to School Escape Room, shown above, is a fun challenge for the start of the year. Check it out!

Split Your Class into Houses

students working together

If you haven’t heard of Ron Clark, you might be living under a rock! One of the concepts that his school made super popular was splitting students up into Harry Potter-like groups or “houses”. Some schools choose to use this house system for the entire school, but it can also be used in the classroom.

Each house has a name, color, motto, chant, etc. They work together to earn points in various ways, such as for positive behavior or winning friendly competitions. Elementary Littles provides an overview of how to incorporate the house system, along with a guide. Overall, the goal is for students to work together, support each other, and have a sense of pride for their house.

Engage Students in Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a method of teaching where students are engaged in their learning by solving real-world projects or problems. The 4 Cs of PBL are communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. This means that a large part of this type of learning includes getting students working together on a common goal. This tends to lead to more meaningful education with skills that can be used beyond the classroom. Take a look at the wide variety of project based learning ideas at We Are Teachers.

Use STEM Activities

The great thing about incorporating STEM activities in the classroom is that it allows students to bring different strengths to a group. Completing a STEM activity is not about getting a right or wrong answer, it is about planning, trial and error, and reflection. Some students might be great at planning, while others might be skilled at adjusting or rethinking an experiment. All of these abilities are important in order to work together successfully on a task.

If you are looking for some Back to School STEM activities, grab the ones above for FREE when you click the button below.

Cooperative learning in the classroom is vital for having a successful school year. It engages students actively, fosters social skills, and boosts motivation. Through collaboration, students gain diverse perspectives and problem-solving abilities. Cooperative learning also builds essential life skills like teamwork and communication. Most importantly, it creates a positive and inclusive atmosphere where students feel valued, helping to make them more confident learners.

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