Cooperation Monsters

r By Julie Hall and Chris Crandall for My Story Matters.

Chris Crandall is one of our fantastic teacher piloting our new curriculum My Hero Journey in her first grade class. Back in October, they explored the Power of Teamwork. Here is an example of what can be learned from teamwork. As you read Chris’ words, take time to explore your own teamwork opportunities have those experience been more cooperation or more monster?

“The activity started out as usual. The lesson plan in my mind, and outlined in my plan book, was to have the students work in partners, with specific supplies, to create a Halloween “monster”.

“I shared the goal or objective with the children and showed them the materials. We also had a class discussion about how, when we work with someone else, our own ideas may not be used every time. We talked about how that might make someone feel “sad”, “bad”, “angry”, etc. Then I asked the students how is working together a good thing and we feel happy. They immediately responded that it was fun to work together and that you are sharing ideas and “making the ideas better when you work together because you both are sharing your best idea!” One of the students added, “It’s better because you can take the best parts from your best ideas and put them together!” Then another child said, “You can also make up new ideas together!” They got it.

“Did they all work together peacefully? No. I noticed one student with back turned and arms crossed, as the other worked happily on the monster. I asked what the problem was that we needed to solve. It was the number of eyes the monster should have. I asked them how they can work that out together so that both of them worked on their monster. They revisited the earlier discussion and it was decided that one partner would choose the number of eyes and the other partner would choose the number of arms. Sounded good to me.

“The room was filled with giggles and excited talking, and feathers and scraps were everywhere! It was fun, organized chaos!

“Then, I visited a table where two boys were working. I thought their monster looked very different from when I had last checked. They did something that no other group had. One of the boys had created a monster on one side of the paper. The other boy created a monster on the other side of the same paper. “Our monster shares a body!” they exclaimed! They were both eager to tell me not only about their own side of the monster but about what the great things were about what their partner had done on the other side as well! They gave each other a “Good Job” high five (a custom in our classroom) and then one of the boy’s faces turned very solemn. “Mrs. Crandall, how are we going to show both sides of the monster when it is on the door?” (The Cooperation Monsters became our Halloween decorations on our classroom door.) He tried to think of different ways it could be done, but none of them lasted very long. He was very concerned, and it was time to go home.

“After the students left, I put a hole in the top of their monster and hung it from a string. I tied the string to the metal door closer. There the monster hung, spinning slowly, so that both sides could be seen – and celebrated.”

Yes, our school days are filled with lesson plans, standards, assessments, and benchmarks. But there are also several experiences when the students’ (and the teacher’s) learning and discovery go far beyond our classroom walls and grade-level curriculum. There are experiences like this…”Cooperation Monsters”, when we discover that working together, sharing ideas, helping each other, improving designs, and even giving “Good job” high fives, can be much happier and better than doing things on our own.

Life is about discovering and strengthening who we are. It’s also about being part of a team – a classroom, a community, a culture – a world – where we work together to be better.

Chris Baird
Chris Baird
Chris is a family man with a beautiful wife and four kids. Three Girls, One Boy. He enjoys playing basketball, being outdoors, and the old normal.

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