Teaching Teamwork in the Elementary Classroom

Teamwork is one of the most important skills we can teach our students.  It’s one of those things that they will need to rely on in almost every aspect of adult life, and yet sometimes it gets pushed aside in our busy teaching schedules.  Here are some ways to add teamwork to your teaching:

1.  Read books about teams. Work some teamwork examples and discussions into your literacy block by doing read alouds that have a teamwork theme, or even just adding more books about teamwork to your classroom library.
Some of my favorites are:

Picture books:
Swimmy by Leo Leonni
The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll
The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Chapter books:
The View From Saturday  by EL Koningsburg
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Holes by Louis Sachar

Teammates by Peter Golenbock
Together by George Ella Lyon

2. Post and share teamwork quotes. Hang them up around the room, add them into your own teacher talk, and draw attention to the times when kids say valuable things about teamwork. Make quotes part of your pervasive class culture so much that the kids start saying things like, “teamwork makes the dream work!”

3. Reflect after cooperative learning, partner or team activities. Give students time to pause and reflect on how well they personally worked with their partner or team. What did they do to support their teammates? What support did they receive?  What did they say or do that contributed to the success of the group? How could they have been more helpful?  What could they improve for next time?

4. Share real life examples of great teams. Sports, music, technology, and art all provide concrete, real world examples of teams and how they function. Encourage students to think about their favorite groups, teams, or even partnerships and to look at how they work together to make great things happen. (And what happens when things fall apart and they are less successful.) Who are the team’s role models for being a great teammate?  Who makes a great leader or team captain, and why? How do they handle success or failure? What do they say about themselves, their team, and their teammates?

5. Talk about teamwork examples in the content areas. Animals work together in nature all the time. (Leaf cutter ants are a particularly good example.) History is full of examples of people working together for a common cause.  How do they do it?  How do they accomplish difficult, incredible things by working together?  What can they do together that they could not do on their own?

6. Be a role model. Be transparent and let your students see how you work as a part of a team- with their parents, with administrators, with your colleagues.  Whenever it’s appropriate, let them see how you communicate, divide up tasks, share ideas,  and handle frustrations. 

Happy (Teamwork) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo