Natalia Hernandez, Director of Curricular Programs, writes about how Greenhill students collaborate with each other in class.
Collaboration is a skill; one that is widely recognized as foundational to success in school and eventually the workplace. Last week, as I traveled from classroom to classroom, I witnessed students collaborating from Kindergarten to 12th grade both organically and by teacher design.
Collaboration is everywhere in kindergarten because the students still haven’t conformed to adult constructs of learning. My favorite example was Zac and Betty who worked together to disassemble a discarded computer. Zac said, “You hold it steady so I can get the screwdriver to turn.” Betty answered, “Okay, but then you hold it so I can take this screw out and then we can take the top off.”
In Middle School, Ms. Nihill assigned small groups the task of presenting on either Aphrodite or Hephaestus. Each group was to present a description of their chosen character and then act out an interview that gave the audience more information about the character. I asked one group how they divided up the tasks. This was one student’s answer, “We talked about the things we are good at and then gave each other jobs. When we were finished with our own parts, we talked about it with the group and then made changes.”
In freshman algebra, Mr. Gibson’s students were given problems to complete. Instinctively, they turned to each other as they finished to verify their answers and understand the thinking behind each other’s solutions. When I asked a student why she did that, she said, “Mr. Gibson tells us there are many ways to arrive at the solution. The more ways we understand, the better off we are.”
Collaboration is a necessary skill. Teachers at all levels must engage in active and purposeful teaching of the concepts that lead to collaboration such as negotiation, empathy, listening, disagreeing respectfully, challenging, and compromise. Our students are learning these skills each day – and many of them do not even realize that they are doing it.