Collaboration with a new classmate

Today was my new student’s first day, and in addition to trying to acclimate her to our school and routines, I wanted the class to start to “re-norm” itself as we move from 24 to 25 students.  We have gotten pretty good at working together, but any time you add someone new, I think it’s a good idea to step back and practice and get everyone on the same page.  Each day this week, I have one “get to know you” activity planned–most of which give us the chance to revisit our expectations for working together.  
Today, being a Monday, I wanted something active so I pulled out an activity from my “teaching teamwork” resource…something I had gotten ready to do at the beginning of the year but simply ran out of time. (Shocking, right?)
Here’s how it unfolded.  The task was simple.  Build the tallest tower you can.  Rules?  It has to stand unsupported for 30 seconds before measuring.  I gave them 5 minutes to brainstorm, 5 minutes to “experiment”, 15 minutes to build, and then 5 minutes to reflect.  
Goals?  Cooperation.  Positive attitudes.  Encouragement.  Perseverance.  Equal participation.  Check it out.

Here we had the brainstorming and experimenting time.  I wanted them to see how the materials worked before actually completing the task.
Our 15 minutes of crazy construction!  I saw some amazing thought go into this…and loved watching them come up with ways to brace their structures as they started to fail.
After our 15 minutes of building time, I had them back away from their towers for 30 seconds…and then measured to the closest centimeter.
Not all towers stayed vertical…but EVERYONE had a great attitude and laughed it off.
After finishing, I asked the teams to sit down and look at how they did in each of the categories we were looking at–from participation to attitudes.  

It was so much fun to watch my new student slowly work herself into her group–and her group members did a FANTASTIC job of gently encouraging her.  All the teams accomplished the task and did a nice job letting everyone contribute.  We all agreed that the “encouragement” piece was the most lacking–so we are going to work hard to be more encouraging to others over the next weeks!
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