Tell students to jot down everything they know about strong teams. Sometimes, scholars need a bit of support. I do a think aloud and say, "Think about a time when you were on a strong team. Maybe it was a soccer team, or football team. Or maybe, you had a great teacher and were part of a strong class team. What made that team strong?" Once the juices start flowing, I give them 1 minute to jot down their ideas.
It is always a good idea to begin a lesson and access prior knowledge or experiences that scholars may have had regarding the subject or topic. Since most scholars have been on a team or have watched some sort of sporting event, most have something to write or draw. Since this is the beginning of the year, it is a low stakes activity where all scholars can be successful. This will help build confidence for when we tackle more challenging skills.
I begin the year with a team focus because it helps to build a strong classroom community and will maximize learning time later in the year.
I tell scholars that we are going to watch two video clips. One video clip is about the Green Bay Packers: 2011 Superbowl Champions. The other video clip is about the Finnish sychronized skating team who won the 2013 world championship. I say, "Both teams are very strong and successful. Think about what you notice about the teams while you watch the videos."
I pause after the first minute and a half of the first video clip and have students turn and tell their friend what they notice so that they remain engaged and critically think about what makes the teams strong. This helps scholars to learn how to be active & critical viewers rather than a passive viewer. With the shift to the Common Core standards, multi-media is very important. Therefore, I start teaching my scholars how to critically view video now.
During the first pause, I chat with a few students and ask them what they noticed about the teams. This holds all scholars accountable to actually chatting. This enhances engagement and it sets a professional tone. I want scholars to think, "When my teacher asks me to do something, I do it because I know its best for me and she is going to check up on me!" Building that community and sense of accountability starts now.
Finally, I choose 2 students randomly to share what his or her partner said. Again, this builds the sense of accountability. Also, it gives other scholars the opportunity to hear what someone said who may not be right next to them or in their table group.
Scholars finish viewing the first video, we pause and discuss again (following the same flow as above). Then, I show the entire second video and pause and discuss (again, following the same flow).
I ask students to get into post-it note groups (these are small groups, determined by the color of post-it on student desk). Students move to a pre-determined area of the room based on their post-it note color. The reason I ask scholars to get into post-it-note groups is so that they can get up and move around a bit. This provides students with a quick stretch break and allows them to work with other scholars (not just the same groups and partnerships).
In order to transition quickly, quietly and orderly, I give students a 1, 2, 3, 4 directive (1: stand up, 2:push in your chair, 3: turn your shoulders, 4: move quickly and quietly to your spot). This step-by-step procedure explicitly makes my expectations clear thereby eliminating most misbehavior. Since this is the first time we've done a transition like this, I model what I expect for 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then, I have a friend show us what it looks like. Finally the whole class transitions. As they transition, I give a ten second countdown so that they know they have 10 seconds to get to their spot and begin to work. I give verbal acknowledgement to reinforce scholars who stand up quietly, who push their chairs in, turn their shoulders and keep hands by sides and who move quickly and quietly to their spot. I give reminders to scholars who are not exhibiting the desired behavior. I have not yet introduced our behavior system yet, so I do not give any other consequences. If a scholar is being especially defiant, I would likely whisper in his or her ear and have a conversation with them after the transition is over. It is important to set a strong and positive tone in this lesson as it will set you up for the rest of the year.
Once scholars are in their groups, students list 3-5 characteristics of strong teams (as learned from the videos) on a 1/2 piece of chart paper. I circulate and interview teams (again, holding them accountable to the work and making sure they know that I think what they are doing is very important). I encourage them to share the marker and take turns (this is practicing sharing responsibility and communicating with teammates).
I clap twice, and students clap back and put their hands on their head. This signals a transition. It is important to develop a transition signal so that I have all eyes on me when I give directions. That way, I am not trying to talk over scholars. It communicates respect & importance. When I give a clap, I want scholars to think, "My teacher has something important to say. Whatever she has to say will help me be the best person I can be. I better put my eyes on her!" If this is the first time doing the clap, then do not teach it after scholars are in small groups. Teach the clap BEFORE scholars get into small groups. Teach the clap on the first day of school when scholars are at their desks. If you wait until they're in small groups around the room, it will be much more challenging to get their attention. I ask scholars to put their hands on their heads to minimize playing with markers, pencils, etc.
I tell scholars that they have 20 seconds to move back to their spot and that one person in the group must bring the chart paper and markers to the front (to be hung up). I count down from 20. All students who are back in their seats in learning position (hands on desk, mouths closed, eyes up) a sticker. I have not yet introduced our paycheck system, but I do want to give scholars concrete reinforcement. I find that even in 5th grade, students still LOVE stickers! I give a reinforcer for a quick transition because it communicates that our learning time is sacred and we have bigger and better things to do than get from one place in the room to another.
I randomly pull names from my cup and ask students to share 1 characteristic of a strong team. I do this to continue to hold scholars accountable for learning and to provide an opportunity for scholars to hear what other groups discussed. The entire class either agrees or disagrees (we use silent sign-language to indicate whether we agree or disagree). Silent signals are a great way to enhance engagement and to allow for non-verbal participation in class. This cuts down on side chatter. Check out sign language resources for ideas.
If we all are in agreement, I write the characteristic on our class poster. We write the characteristics on our class poster so that it can be displayed for the entire year. That way, if we have any issues with our team (which we will have, because we are learning how to be a strong team and that is OK). Students write the characteristics we all agree upon in their team journal. Scholars write in their journals too because it helps them to be accountable for the work that we did and also so they can have a copy for their reference. It also sends a clear message that we work hard all the time!