When I introduce cooperative learning, I explain that this skill will be practiced all year long. Like any sport, the more you practice, the better you get at it. We talk about assembly lines and car manufacturers and how each person has to do their job and pull their weight or the final product will not be of high quality. We also talk about other jobs where employees work as a team and the things they do to show this. This always lends itself to a lively discussion! This is also a great time to explain that we don’t always have to like the people on our team but we do have to learn to work together in order to get a job done.
When I put the students in groups of 3 and I have them assign a job for each person. One person is the timekeeper (keeps track of the time allotted for the job), one person is the recorder and writes everything down, one person is the manager and keeps everyone on task. I rotate around the room as they work to make sure they are on the assignment. I also change groups at least once a month so they learn to work with different people.
At least once a week, I give them a problem to solve. My favorite one is to give them 5 items and tell them to make something with it. Then they have to present it to the class and explain its function. Sometimes I will give them a problem work situation and have them come up with a solution. The students are reluctant at the beginning of the year but after about a month, they seem to look forward to these group lessons.
I also videotaped these lessons at least once a month and it was interesting to see how much they have changed by the end of the year. By teaching cooperative learning, I hope they are learning some skills in order to have successful careers.