While any month of the school year is a good time for teamwork and collaborative learning, there are many ways to incorporate it in February in particular! Especially with the themes of caring and love that come with Valentine’s Day. Use these 6 ideas to boost student collaboration in the classroom this month!
6 Ways to Foster Student Collaboration in the Classroom
Before diving right into any sort of partner and group work, it’s important to dedicate some time to:
- setting clear guidelines and routines
- identifying and modeling behavior expectations
And most importantly, helping your students become comfortable working together in a safe, accepting classroom environment where it’s okay to make mistakes!
#1 Read Alouds about Cooperation and Teamwork
A good old-fashioned real aloud is a very effective way to introduce or review the concept of working together. It can help get students in the best possible mindset for collaborative learning.
Here are a few picture books (not just for February, but any month of the year!) that can help inspire kids to work as a team:
The Perfect Plan highlights the the benefits of working with others, such as utilizing everyone’s individual skills and strengths. It celebrates creativity, hard work, and what it means to be a good leader.
This picture book was inspired by Kamala Harris’ true childhood story of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood. It shows just one beautiful example of how kids can make a powerful difference when joining forces to work toward a common goal.
Do you already have Our Class is a Family in your classroom library? This is another one of the books I’ve written, and it’s brand new (to be released spring 2024)!
Collaboration Station focuses specifically on working together in the classroom in partners, small groups, and as one big class family. It addresses many of the common challenges that can arise when students work together, and helps motivate kids to want to be a valuable member of their team.
Any of these read alouds would be a great jumping off point for a lesson or discussion about your class’ own routines for student collaboration.
#2 Accountable Talk Stems
Collaborative conversation is a huge component when having students work together, and that’s where Accountable Talk comes into play.
“Accountable Talk” involves having meaningful conversations that encourage a more positive learning environment for everyone. Students become more empowered as they learn and use Accountable Talk to speak clearly, listen actively, confirm and clarify thoughts, and express opinions about any topic at hand.
Each of these Accountable Talk Stem resources help teach students how to communicate effectively in the classroom.
Accountable Talk Stems by Leslie Ann
These FREE bookmarks can serve as a visual reminder of positive communication skills.
Conversation Starters by Miss Jacob’s Little Learners
Another freebie that can be used as a visual reference, and displayed in the classroom.
Let’s Talk! EDITABLE Accountable Talk Bulletin Board by Cooties and Cuties
This resource is editable, so that you can customize it with the talking stems that are most helpful for your own class. As a time saver, it also comes with premade templates that are ready to print.
Accountable Talk Interactive Board by Life Between Summers
This is an interactive bulletin board that encourages students to practice engaging in collaborative discourse.
Here’s how it works:
Each student has their own page on the bulletin board, and their page displays their picture (you might have them show their best “thinking” pose in the photo).
Whenever students come up with a question, idea, or thought as they are reading, writing, or having a discussion in class, they can “post” their thinking on a sticky note. Other students can respond to those posts with a comment, an answer, or a question of their own.
You can provide opportunities for students to use their written discourse as jumping off points for verbal discussions with one another. Or choose a few posts to “feature” every so often and use them as starting points for whole-class discussions, which allows students to practice their accountable talk skills in a larger context.
When using this with my own classes over the years, the subjects of the posts were often driven by the students themselves. But sometimes I would also present them with a specific topic or question that related to something we were learning about (for example, “Measurement” or “How can characters in a story respond to challenges?”) And everyone would post collaboratively on that same topic.
I also liked to utilize this when I was about to introduce a new unit, as it helped me gauge their background knowledge.
The kids LOVED it, and it definitely became an engaging spot in our classroom!
#3 Collaborative Learning Groups
Collaborative learning groups give students a framework for working effectively as a team. I’ve used this most often when having students answer reading comprehension questions or solve more rigorous problems in math.
Here is a visual to help introduce job roles and the “workflow” for productive group work in math. It can be enlarged to poster size, or projected onto a screen:
And this is a similar one that can be utilized for language arts. Each student receives a job role card that they can keep referring back to while they are working with their group.
When each team member has a specific role, and students are familiar with following the steps (1-5 on the poster), it makes a huge difference with accountability and active participation.
In using this collaborative group method, students are able to effectively support one another in their learning!
Both sets of posters and cards (for math and for reading) are available in a discounted bundle.
#4 PALentine Friendship Books
Here’s another student collaboration idea, and one specifically for the month of February!
It’s called PALentine’s Day. Much like GALentine’s Day has been coined as a term for women to celebrate their female relationships as mothers, daughters, friends, etc., PALentine’s Day is all about kids celebrating their friendships.
PALentine Friendship Books have various opportunities for students to work together, in partners and as one big class family.
In addition to the collaborative aspect of working together on these booklets, it’s also a fun way of building classroom community and positive student relationships.
Another way to encourage student connections through collaboration is with Class Family Fridays (or Class Family Fun Days, if used on a different day of the week)! These are a special edition of Morning Meetings, designed specifically for class community building.
The weekly slides always include:
- A Letter from Your Teacher: an editable text box where you can type a quick, encouraging note for your students to read aloud
- Class Family Quote of the Week: a classroom community building quote to be read aloud
- Class Family Fun: a community building activity for your class to do together to foster lots of fun bonding
- Class Family Conversation: a discussion question that’s designed to get kids comfortable sharing with one another
And there are bonus slide decks themed for seasons and holidays. Including Valentine’s Day for February! Like many of the slides, the conversation slide gives students an opportunity to engage in a collaborative discussion.
It’s a meaningful way for students to collaborate and build connections throughout the month of February, and the rest of the school year.
One of the most easy (and fun!) ways to have students practice working together is through games! Games can be used to foster student collaboration in the classroom while building student connections too.
You might utilize games during literacy or math centers, as a choice for students who finish their work early, whenever the class could use a brain break, or as a part of indoor recess fun!
One of my own favorite games for the month of February is Valentine’s Day-themed Jenga. It’s such a fun way to combine community-building and math practice.
Students can work together in pairs or small groups while playing Jenga, or just about any game! Games really are a great way to foster friendly competition and cooperative learning without any intense academic pressure.
By implementing any of these 6 activities for February, you’ll not only enhance student collaboration in the classroom but also create a classroom culture of cooperation, empathy, and inclusivity.
And what’s not to love about that? ❤️