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We All Teach SEL: Teamwork Activities and Tools for Students

Resources to integrate teamwork into every classroom every day.

January 30, 2017
Danny Wagner Senior Editor, Education Ratings & Reviews
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Technology Integration, Tools

Building SEL (social and emotional learning) skills such as teamwork requires face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. Besides doing your share, teamwork is:

working respectfully and effectively within a group.

While some tools focus specifically on teamwork, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote partnership, too. You don't have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating teamwork and life skills-building into your content classroom.  

Why teamwork?

Everyone -- from sports franchises to the military to businesses -- is on a quest to crack the code of the perfect team. Google spent years studying their working teams and recently announced the results. They determined that success wasn't based on "who" was on a team but on the culture created by the team -- for example, a group that takes turns talking vs. one in which members speak over one another. Educators also hunt for a magic mix of students who collaborate with ease and insight. Our natural tendency is to rotate students to discover the right chemistry; however, Google's research shows this isn't the right approach. Instead, we should help students understand how good teams operate and then build a shared set of skills that work no matter the team's composition. In response, we'll foster more positive classroom climates, increase students' interpersonal skills, and better prepare them to participate in collective action for change. If we're lucky, students will take that learning outside the classroom and rally behind their peers to make the world a better place for us all. 

Take action

  • When you encounter a student who is behaving in a problematic way, don't just move them to a new group; try modifying your level of support.
     
  • Have high expectations around teamwork in your classroom, and post those expectations for students to see. 
     
  • Pose a problem to the class that requires a decision, and develop some strategies together to come to a consensus. 
     
  • Make sure the technology you use doesn't take the place of, but instead supplements, face-to-face interaction.
     
  • Using our Digital Citizenship Curriculum? Both our student interactives and lessons already foster key SEL skills.
     
  • Visit some other excellent SEL resources, including CASEL, Character Lab, Edutopia, and Ashoka.
     
  • Think about the digital tools you're already using in the classroom. Can you find a creative way to use them to model teamwork? Check out our suggestions below!

Directly target teamwork

See our list Best Student Collaboration Tools for more tools focused on teamwork.

inspired websiteinspirED

inspirED acts as a resource for lessons that build social and emotional skills. Along with the uplifting activities, teachers can help students organize an inspirED team, who work together to make a positive impact on the whole school community.

zoo u gameZoo U

In this research-based social game, kids encounter problems where they have to make decisions, see outcomes, and then practice skills. Gather assessment info about students' social skills, such as cooperation, and report to parents.

Promote teamwork in all subjects     

 

For ELA classrooms

boomwriter websiteBoomWriter

Kids join forces to co-author their own books. Teachers can create a story starter, and then each student writes the next chapter. Of the works produced, kids vote on which gets added to the book; then, teaming up for the next chapter begins.

kaizena websiteKaizena

Used as an add-on with Google Drive, this grading tool lets teachers and students tag each other's work, like items in a rubric, and then rate the tags. Students can use the group feedback to examine their own writing, and all can improve together.

 

For math classrooms

desmos website

Desmos

Desmos is a graphing calculator that lets kids manipulate graphs by changing the equations. Simulations such as Water Line get kids collaborating on their own challenges by visualizing the thinking of other classmates and getting feedback.

gracie and friends treasure bubbles appGracie and Friends Treasure Bubbles

Two-player activities help kids quickly assess small quantities as a team. Have students start by discussing a strategy, and then practice coordinating their moves to catch bubbles that have a certain amount of treasure inside.

 

For science classrooms

playground physics appPlayground Physics

Partner up to track motion and explore physics concepts. Have one student handle the iPad while another runs around or plays on equipment. After filming, students can add tags describing their learning to the speed and energy graphs created.

zooniverse websiteZooniverse

Zooniverse allows kids to collaborate with real researchers. Pick a project such as Galaxy Zoo, where students contribute to the greater good by classifying images of actual galaxies. Be sure to discuss the scientific benefits of their combined efforts.

 

For social studies classrooms

geoguessr websiteGeoguessr

Come together as a class to work on geography skills. Either as a whole class or in smaller groups, kids can scour Google Street View images (organized into themes such as "U.S. Cities") for clues and guess the locations by dropping a pin on a map.

never alone kisima innitchuna gameNever Alone (Kisima Innitchuna)

Have two students cooperatively play this adventure game based on Alaska Native lore. The theme of togetherness is tied into the narrative and gameplay and will get kids thinking about our interconnected world as they coordinate on the puzzles.

 

For all classrooms

classcraft websiteClasscraft

With this game-based management tool, students are put in teams that must work together to succeed. Students can earn points for helping each other out, and if a student loses points for negative behavior, a teammate can intercede on her behalf.

goosechase edu websiteGooseChase EDU

Create scavenger hunts for students' mobile devices. Student teams can work together to solve a puzzle by submitting photos, videos, or text or by being in a specific physical location. Teams can even work together to solve a larger mystery.

 

Bridge the school-to-home connection

 

Explore more SEL tips, tools, and teaching strategies.

We All Teach SEL