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Teamwork and Tangrams

Grade Levels: 3 - 8

Lesson Summary

This lesson focuses on the group process and is designed to introduce students to working in teams. This lesson is anchored in mathematics, using Tangram puzzles. Another task based on a different content area may be substituted.

In this lesson, students reflect on their interpersonal skills while working in cooperative groups to solve Tangram puzzles. Students share and discuss their group skills using the Numbered Heads Together cooperative learning strategy.

Lesson Driving Questions: What are my strengths for working in groups, and how can I contribute to solving conflicts that arise during group work?

Objectives

  1. Students will work in a group and use Tangram pieces to identify the relationships among similar and congruent shapes.

  2. Students will identify productive and obstructive behaviors in group work and will brainstorm ways to make group work more effective.

Materials

  1. Set of Tangram pieces for each group of students

  2. Writing materials for reflections and self-assessment

Procedure

  1. Begin a class discussion that focuses on constructive versus obstructive behaviors. Ask students to describe examples of each.

    Inform students that they will be working in a group to solve a Tangram problem and will later reflect on behaviors that assisted or hampered completion of the task. Using an overhead projector and transparent colored Tangram shapes, demonstrate, with student input, how to arrange Tangram pieces into different shapes, beginning with a simple shape.

  2. Divide students into small groups. Assign each student a number and a corresponding role. Roles should include:

    • Go-Getter: Has permission to leave the group to pick up materials

    • Timekeeper: Keeps track of how much time remains for the group to solve the problem

    • Quality Inspector: reminds the group of its task should the group stray from its assignment.

    • Encourager: Encourages all members to participate and gives positive feedback to group members.

    Make sure each student understands his or her role and remind students that during the activity, you will not answer questions. This will require students to practice cooperative skills.

  3. Group Activity

    The first task of each group is to arrange the Tangram pieces into a square shape. Then, groups reproduce a second design using the Tangram pieces. Allow groups fifteen minutes to complete the two tasks.

    If they finish before time is up, students should begin listing the constructive and obstructive behaviors exhibited during the activity and then discuss them within their groups. Remind students of group expectations, such as: use soft voices, everyone participates, and so on.

  4. Class Discussion

    Ask students to partner with one group member to discuss briefly the strengths they brought to the team activity. Students should be identifying ways to improve their group skills. Then have students, in their groups, prepare to discuss the importance of cooperation, teamwork, and communication by posing some or all of the following questions:

    • What were some of the constructive behaviors that helped you to complete the Tangram task?

    • What were some of the obstructive behaviors that prevented you from completing the Tangram activity?

    • What were some of the frustrations you felt when obstructive behaviors were exhibited?

    • What are some choices you made in relation to frustrating behaviors?

    • What was the result of these choices?

    • What are your responsibilities as a group member?

    To encourage all students to participate in the discussion, use the Numbered Heads Together strategy. To begin the discussion, pose a question and call out a number to respond to the question. Someone from each group should be prepared to respond. Call on one of those students to answer. Call a new number to follow up or clarify the answer, promoting discussion. Continue the discussion by calling new numbers to respond to questions.

  5. Student Reflection in Learning Logs

    Restate the Lesson Driving Questions: What are my strengths for working in groups and how can I contribute to solving conflicts that arise during group work?

    Have students answer the driving question individually in their learning logs by writing one or two paragraphs.

  6. Assessment

    Students should write one to two paragraphs in their learning logs to summarize the discussion. Use the student writing to assess their learning.

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