Tired of fighting? Teach Kids How To Cooperate

I love that I have the opportunity to teach kids how to get along with one another.  What a gift!  This free lesson plan for cooperation can be adapted from 5th grade up through high school aged students and beyond.  I’ll keep this post short because the bulk of the information about the lesson is presented in the lesson plan and letter home to the students’ families.   

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”

-Alexander Graham Bell

This lesson plan originated when I ran across a book recommendation from Peter Diamandis (@PeterDiamandis) for a children’s book: Stone Soup by John Muth.  Peter Diamandis is an engineer, physician, and entrepreneur who was recently named by Fortune Magazine as one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” and knows a lot about cooperation.  Diamandis says that Stone Soup is “the best MBA degree you can read” and a “critically important” in the art of deal-making.  Yes please, sign my students up!  As the job market continues to evolve, high social intelligence and critical thinking skills will become increasingly important, and I want to provide my students with the best possible information.        

Start with the story. 

The Stone Soup story chronicles three Monks as they enter a village that has been ravaged by war and famine.  The monks discover that all of the inhabitants are wary of their presence and refuse to offer them food or shelter.  To soften the hearts of the strangers, they make ‘stone soup’ and show the people that when everyone shares a little, abundance is created for the individual and the group.

Review the 7 factors of cooperation.

I have outlined a number of questions to ask throughout this lesson to stimulate thinking and problem-solving skills.  The worksheet asks students to define or give an example of each of the seven critical factors that support cooperation.  My students had incredible responses and revelatory moments.  One student was struggling to think of what it meant to “encourage” someone, and her partner reminded her of when they’d cheered on their friend the weekend before when they’d gone ice skating, and she’d initially been too afraid to participate.  

Practice cooperation through a cup stacking activity. 

To prove to my students that we are all better working together than alone, I ask for a volunteer to try to stack the cups using the rubber band and yarn by themselves. I set the timer for a minute and allow the student to attempt the challenge alone, and after the minute I will enable them to select a partner. In every case, the students were faster and performed better with a partner than by themselves. Then I pair them off into groups of two or three and give them all a chance to practice cooperation using the seven skills they just reviewed and then ask for feedback about their experience.

Share your student’s learning with stakeholders. 

After each lesson I conduct with each grade level, I contact parents and teachers to share what we’ve been working on and give resources to reinforce those behaviors at home and in the classroom.   One teacher reached out to thank me for working on this skill with her students and said that she “sees improvement.”  Woohoo!  That’s not an earth-shattering compliment, but I’ll take it!  I hope you all enjoy this lesson as much as our students did!