Lesson plan

Problem Solving and Cooperation

Group work can build cooperation and problem-solving skills inside and outside of the classroom! In this lesson, students will discuss cooperation and practice using cooperative techniques in human knot and tower-building activities.
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Students will be able to define the word "cooperation" and discuss ways the class may use cooperative skills when problem solving.

(10 minutes)
  • Join students together in a circle, either seated or standing.
  • Ask students to bring their right hand into the circle and to reach for another person's hand. Tell them to make sure not to grab the hand of the person next to them
  • Ask everyone to reach their left in and to find someone else's hand (making sure it's not the person right next to them).
  • Explain that they have just created a human knot!
  • Ask students to work together to untangle their knot without letting go of hands.
  • Explain that the goal is to end up in a circle, still holding hands.
  • Tell them that they can go under or over arms or legs if needed!
  • Ask them to get creative, but remind them that they can't break the chain or they will have to start over.
  • Give students 5–7 minutes to complete.
  • Play inspiring music (optional).
  • Ask, "How did you work together to unravel your knot? How did you problem solve?"
  • Ask, "How did cooperation play a role in this activity?"
(12 minutes)
  • Explain that cooperation can go a long way when working with a team.
  • Ask, "What are the important things to remember when working together and problem solving?"
  • Write "cooperation" on the board and record their responses underneath. Be sure to include:
    1. Listen to each other.
    2. Take turns.
    3. Take time to problem solve.
    4. Praise and encourage each other.
    5. Offer suggestions (not demands).
  • Explain that they will be working together in groups to practice these strategies again, but this time building a tall tower using only pasta, tape, string, and a marshmallow.
(5 minutes)
  • Hold up each item that they will use for their tower.
  • Divide students into groups and give each group one yard of tape, 20 sticks of spaghetti, one marshmallow, and one yard of string.
  • Explain the directions (it may help to summarize these on the board, as well):
    1. In your groups, use the materials you were given to build the tallest tower.
    2. You have 18 minutes to complete this task.
    3. Make sure the marshmallow can sit on the top of your structure. (The tower must hold it in place; it can not be held up or suspended in any way.)
    4. If you are struggling, remember to stick with it and to pause to breathe as needed.
    5. Do the best you can with your “Leaning Tower of Pasta!”
  • Ask if they have any questions.
  • Remind the groups they have 18 minutes to build the tallest tower using the cooperation strategies.
  • Play fun music (optional).
  • Remind them that each person in their group will be asked to take part in some way!
  • Ask them to begin and to have fun!
  • Start the timer.
(18 minutes)
  • Walk around the room and observe each group.
  • Ask questions to help move groups along when necessary.
  • Remind students to participate equitably when necessary.

Enrichment: Ask advanced students to write their own idea for a cooperative problem-solving game.

Support: Work one-on-one or in small groups with some students during group work and provide support when needed.

(5 minutes)
  • Continue to walk around the room and check student comprehension and evidence of understanding cooperation principles during group work.
(10 minutes)
  • Stop the clock at 18 minutes.
  • Go around the room and ask each group to present their tower.
  • Make sure to notice if it is standing firmly and if the marshmallow is on top and in place.
  • Ask each group to talk about how they used cooperation and problem-solving techniques.
  • Tell the class that they did a great job and that these same cooperation techniques can be applied in other settings and are valuable in school and in life!

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