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Section 3: Teaching for learning; activities and talk.

So far, you have:

  • Looked at your pupils through the lens of the Collaboration learning grid
  • Gained a sense of what becoming better at Collaborating looks like
  • Considered how you might shift the culture of the classroom to nurture Collaboration

Now we look more closely at things you can actually do in the classroom to provoke, guide and support pupils to get better at Collaborating; to build the phases of Collaboration mindedness.

Go to the phase that you have already identified as the one that most of your pupils need to develop next.

In each Tab box below you will find an overview of the teacher’s role followed by a range of suggestions linked to making the classroom culture more Collaboration friendly. After each suggestion you will see a brief statement in green that reinforces the cultural aspect of the idea. While some suggestions are one off ideas many can be used several times during a year or indeed be made into a classroom routine and thereby shift the culture. 

Moving from Grey → Purple (Receives)

Receives: Minded to begin to collaborate with others

Collaboration grid may 2016 - Collaboration grid - Rows_Page_5

In the Receives (purple) phase, pupils are making a big leap from being wary of others, being unaware of social conventions or any of the advantages of working/learning with others. Here they are collaborating with others because they are required to. There is much to be done in this phase: social skills, sharing ideas, working out what needs doing, playing their part and even thinking about how they have contributed to the team.

Behaviours to secure, Moving from Grey to Purple

Collaboration can be promoted both by how you structure the learning environment and how you help pupils to think of themselves as learners.

Your role as a teacher in this phase is to:

  • Introduce the concept of Collaboration to encourage trust in relating to others
  • Focus on sharing, turn taking and listening
  • Introduce the idea of different roles in a group
  • Encourage self reflection
  • In other words you are beginning to make learning visible: uncovering and exploring how it feels, what makes it work, and what the pupil’s role in the process is to be.

Introducing the concepts of collaboration and teamwork.

Read a story (ages 4-8)

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A ready-made story – Jay and Milly and their mum and dad find out that you can get things done when everyone works together.


Try a quick activity (ages 4-5)

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Follow up a story about collaboration with a simple activity to illustrate collaborative behaviour.


Capture the moments (ages 4-8)


Reinforce good collaborative behaviours by capturing them on camera as they happen.

Take photographs when you notice children playing and working well. Place them on a ‘Collaboration Wall’ in the classroom or in a special book that you look at and talk about regularly with the children.

Adapt a familiar song (ages 4-8)


Try this song to the tune Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Help each other as you learn.

Listen, share and take your turn.

Pull together, work in teams,

Learn with others, build your dreams

Help each other as you learn,

Listen, share and take your turn

Rights and responsibilities (KS1,2,3)


Work in pairs and small groups to suggest a charter of matching rights and responsibilities or ground rules for collaboration. If everyone has a right to have their voice heard, everyone also has a responsibility to listen attentively to others and wait until they have finished speaking. What else might be important and why?

Building trust (KS2,3)

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Play some quick trust games and discuss what pupils learn from this about working with others. What do they have to be aware of in a group? How could they transfer their learning to a different context?

  • One person stands in the centre of a close circle of other pupils, who are all facing inwards. The central person falls in any direction, without giving prior warning. S/he trusts the others to catch, support and lift her/him up again safely.
  • A group of people stand closely in a circle, with their backs to each other. At a given signal, all sit down on each others knees.

Think of an icon (ages 4-11)


Adopt a character – real, imaginary, human or animal – that implies or illustrates collaboration. Talk about the character and how they work and learn alongside others.

Talk about roles (ages 4-14)

Use this one minute animation to illustrate collaboration. Use it to talk about how members of a team have different roles in getting a job done.

Link collaboration to life (ages 8-12)

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A range of short ideas to help pupils link collaboration to the world more generally.

Use as a start-up activity for introducing collaboration.


Collaboration Linking Ideas (pdf)

Stimulate discussion (ages KS2/3)

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A range of short ideas to help pupils understand collaboration.

Collaboration trainer notes (pdf)



Focus on sharing, taking turns and listening.

Try a sharing activity (KS1)

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An activity that requires pupils to share what they have in order to finish the task. Use this also to encourage children to think about what they are trying to achieve.

Use harder jigsaws with older pupils.

Good listener prompts (KS1)

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  • Have the pupils make suggestions about good listening
  • Pay attention. Focus on the person and what is being said
  • Don’t get distracted by other things around you
  • Show you’re listening by saying uh-huh or nodding your head
  • Keep quiet while the other person’s talking
  • Wait to ask a question or give comments that show others that you care about what they’re saying (WYS)

Make these into a public display and refer to them often. Here is an example from a group of X year olds.

Introduce careful listening (KS1)

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A quick activity for the whole class about listening.


Try a listening walk (KS1/2)


Work with small groups of children to create a listening page so that they can then go on a listening walk together around the school. Use a sheet of A4 paper subdivided into 12 or 16 boxes and in each box draw a picture of something the children might hear on their walk. As they walk around they can put a tick or cross in the box each time they hear the sound. This is great fun with clipboards and pencils and can be used for a nature trail, local walk or anywhere you would really like the children to focus on what can be heard around them. Regular short listening walks will definitely help them become really familiar with how ‘active listening’ feels. This will help children understand that they can learn something about birds and animals by listening carefully.


Build listening skills (KS2/3)

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Listen and Draw

  • Deepen listening skills by requiring students to attend to each other and supplement what they are hearing and understanding through focused questions.


Discuss interdependence (KS2/3)

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Alone and together

Build a greater awareness if their own interdependent behaviour & its importance in learning.


Explore working together (ages 8-12)

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Passing the bucket

Help students to recognise that individuals need to work together in an efficient and purposeful way to overcome problems.


Introducing different roles (ages 6-12)

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Introduce pupils to a few essential team roles, for example.

  • Coordinator
  • Resource gather
  • Finisher

There are many ideas for team roles.


Encourage self reflection (ages 8-12)

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After a team activity have pupils discuss how it went, what they achieved, what they might improve on next time.

Download this straightforward team reflection prompt sheet and adapt it for you purposes.

How did we do as a team?

Capture collaborative incidents across a week (ages 8-12)

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My learning log

A log to capture positive and could-be ways of collaborating. Part of a learning log for students. Creates greater awareness of their collaborative tendencies.

Download – Learning Log

Moving from Purple → Blue (Responds)

Responds: Minded to be part of a team

Collaboration grid may 2016 - Collaboration grid - Rows_Page_4

In the Responds (blue) phase pupils are willing to develop their understanding of what being part of a team involves, agreeing goals together, trying out different roles, broadening social skills to open up others.

Behaviours to secure, moving from Purple to Blue

Collaboration can be promoted both by how you structure the learning environment and how you help pupils to think of themselves as learners.

Your role as a teacher in this phase is to:

  • Stress the ‘teamness’ of teams.
  • Focus on ways of agreeing relevant goals.
  • Enable role trialling.

Explore working together (KS1)

Lone Wolf

Look out for physical tasks that will only succeed if pupils actively cooperate – a see-saw for example, or catching games, or hide and seek, or ‘What’s the time Mister Wolf’ ?’, etc. Treat it as an opportunity to discuss how success can only come if everyone plays their part.

Jigsaw listening (KS1/2/3)


Assign pupils letters A-E into groups to listen to a short story. In each group A listens for one type of information (eg types of transport used), B listens for something else etc etc.

At the end of the story, ask them to reconstruct the story together by each putting in the information that they know.

Reflect on

  • whether this helped to get a fuller understanding of the story ?
  • how  this might shape the way pupils approach tasks outside school ?”
  • what this way of working tells pupils about using the skills of all team members

Jigsaw research (KS2)


“Assign ‘expert’ groups of pupils different aspects of a topic to research. They then share the information they have gathered with the wider group to create the whole picture. Discuss how to ensure that each ‘expert group’ has an equal voice in putting forward their point of view, even though the whole group outcome may emphasise one aspect over another.” – another way of building interdependence.

Teamness of teams (ages 8-12)

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Machines – creating a machine with moving parts using pupils.

Follows up with discussion about the ‘teamness’ of teams and everyone contributing.


Think Pair Share (ages All)

TPS is a well-known strategy for ensuring that pupils build up to learning in a team.

One way of using this might be to;

Pose a question or problem, give pupils 1 minute to think individually about their own personal response; give 2 minutes in pairs to compare their first reactions with a partner; give fours 3 minutes to share their views in a group.

Use as a simple strategy to prepare pupils for working together in teams.

As an alternative, try Think/Link/Together which achieves the same outcomes.

think link together


Everyone contributing (KS2/3)

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Teamworking mat

A useful way of knowing who is contributing what, although not a means of ensuring everyone contributes!

Draw the mat onto a large piece of sugar paper (the one shown would be suitable for a group of 4 – adjust for smaller/larger groups). Each individual writes their personal response/views/solution in the section immediately in front of them. Once all individuals have made their contribution the group agree the group response, which is written in the central panel.

teamworking mat

Pizza the Action (KS1/2)


Provide each team member with a piece of ‘pizza’, plus one spare. Ask students to write their own ideas or responses or solutions or questions or answers etc on their own piece. Once complete, the pizza is assembled and the team together distil their thinking and complete the final piece of the pizza. Display either  each team’s pizza, or of the distilled pieces from all teams to form a composite view.

Pizza the Action is a Kagan Cooperative Learning structure:

Explore interdependence  (ages 8-12)

airport-control-tower (1)

Help pupils realise that the contributions of others are essential if you are to overcome a problem successfully


Agreeing goals (KS2/3)

Offer activities where the goals are not immediately apparent. These may be in the form of fragmented information where each pupil has some key information, but no pupil has sufficient information, but no pupil has sufficient information to solve the problem by themselves, or simply where the group is not given a clear steer on what is to be achieved.  Insist the group have agreed their goal before making a start on the task.

Sorting the goal  (KS2/3)

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Offer goal planning tools for groups to complete before deciding what to do

Goal Planning

Reviewing progress (KS1/2/3)

Build in review times for groups to check progress against the agreed goals. This could be written into the planning tool above.

Goal Planning

KS1/2 Group roles (KS1/2)


Assign roles to group members prior to beginning a task, ensuring that over time pupils try out a range of roles.

At KS1/2, try

KS2 Group roles (ages KS2)


Assign roles to group members prior to beginning a task, ensuring that over time pupils experience a range of roles.

At KS2, consider these group work role cards

Alternatively, look at the KS1/2 group roles if more appropriate for your pupils.

KS3 Group roles (ages KS3)

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By KS3 you might want to consider the group roles identified by Belbin. At this stage, students are probably looking only at the ‘To Do’ column, and the language may well need to be made age-appropriate. Also, think about whether it is wise to introduce all of these roles at the same time. If they are to be phased in, what is the most sensible order ? For example the people orientated roles first (coordinator/team-worker/resource-investigator), the action orientated roles next (shaper/implementer/completer-finisher), and finally the thought orientated roles (plant/monitor-evaluator/specialist).


Alternatively, look at the KS2 group roles if more appropriate for your pupils.

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