By Kiah Nolan
As the first grade team continues to explore collaboration, we have been asked to really reflect upon when we ourselves actually collaborate in our lives. Do we collaborate with our families? our friends? other teachers? The short answer is, “yes of course”, but to give specific examples was not exactly easy. I know if it were not for the door connecting my room to my grade level partners room, I could possibly go an entire school day without ever speaking to an adult, let alone collaborate. During our latest weather event I spent a lot of time wondering how specifically we as adults collaborate and how in the world I can guide my students through collaboration. As I looked out the window it hit me….SNOW… all around me neighbors were collaborating, they were designing perfect parking spots, challenging the laws of physics together to slowly but surely get that car moving, and in some cases taking on the challenge of shoveling an entire city block.
It dawned on me that many of us lucky enough to grow up in a city that experiences snow, may have had some of our earliest collaborative moments in the snow. I declared at that moment that the first graders were going to collaborate in this very snow!
During our latest grade level meeting I shared this idea and we used the activity of building a snowman to assess the different spectrums of collaboration. We brainstormed a list of different ways one could collaborate. During our brainstorming session we came up with this preliminary list:
Distributed tasks : Have one final outcome but each team member has a goal. When building a snowman some kids make the bottom, some make the middle, and some make the head.
Roles: Each student is assigned a roll usually by the teacher . Snow gatherer, design expert, mitten dryer etc.
Organic: Students have the plan that they are going to make a snowman, but the roles or tasks happen on their own.
Leader: One designated leader that tells the students what to do.
Zen: The name speaks for itself. It just happens naturally in harmony…the snow isn’t even cold!
Equal Partner: Students are equals they all do each part together.
While these are in no way the only ways it is something to think about.
One class did manage to get outside in the snow and practice their collaborative skills. They made a loose plan in the class room with their groups, some groups chose roles, and some groups had a self declared leader. But once we actually got outside…it took on a more organic form....One student could be heard shouting, "I am not quitting!!!" Others created and entire army of mini snow men, and of course in true first grade fashion another student stuck his head in a drift of snow!