How to Develop Cooperative Learning Skills

There are some strategies that support cooperative learning. If you are new to this game, take baby steps first.

Some teachers (not just relief teachers) mistake group work with cooperative learning. Group work often fails, especially with a chatty group, because it lacks structure. 

This is a four-step discussion strategy that incorporates wait time and aspects of cooperative learning. Students (and teachers) learn to LISTEN while a question is posed, THINK (without raising hands) of a response, PAIR with a neighbour to discuss responses, and SHARE their responses with the another group.

Three-Step Interview
Using interviews/listening techniques one student interviews another about a topic. When time is up, students switch roles as interviewer and interviewee. Pairs then join to form groups of four. Students take turns introducing their partners and sharing what the pair partners had to say.

Roundtable can be used for brainstorming or reviewing. Students sit in teams of 3 or more, with one piece of paper and one pencil. The teacher asks a question which has multiple answers. Students take turns writing one answer on the paper, then passing the paper and pencil clockwise to the next person. When time is called, teams with the most correct answers are recognized. Teams reflect on their strategies and consider ways they could improve. You can modify the activity, so that each student starts a piece of paper, writes one answer, and passes it, so several papers are moving at once.

Numbered Heads Together
This structure is useful for quickly reviewing material in a fun way. The students in each team are numbered (each team might have 4 students numbered 1, 2, 3, 4). Students coach each other on material to be mastered. Teachers pose a question and call a number. Only the students with that number are eligible to answer.

Pairs Check
Students work in teams of four with two sets of partners. The worksheet is set up with problems presented in pairs. The first person in each partnership does the first problem with the pair partner serving as coach, and offering exaggerated praise. After the first problem is done, partners change roles. After each pair of problems, teams of four check each others' work and, if they agree, give a team cheer or handshake. In this way students stay on task, working together toward mastery.

Send a Problem
Each student on a team writes a review problem on a flash card. Teams reach consensus on answers and write them on the backs of the cards. Each group's stack of questions passes to another group, which attempts to answer them and checks to see if they agree with the sending group. If not, they write their answer as an alternative. Stacks of cards can be sent to a third