BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
Learning how to work in a group takes practice and patience. Yet many parents think it happens by grace. Kids need more than just the experience of working and playing with others. They need guidance in understanding the key points that make group work successful.
In school, students often work together, completing art, history, and science projects with a partner. In corporate America, individuals team-up in order to resolve issues and create quicker, more creative solutions. Being a good group member not only helps you in the classroom, it also helps you in life. Knowing how to work well with others allows you to be a better friend, a better partner, and a better person.
Emphasize the important points below when your child works in groups. Their understanding of these points will help them work better with others.
When your child works with others, how much does he participate? Does he sit off to the side while everyone else pores over a large poster board and crayons? “Showing up” means being interested in what is going on in the group. When your child is working with others at home, make sure he “shows up” physically and mentally. Encourage your child to take an active role in the group if you notice his reluctance. If your child is completing the task unwillingly, discuss the reasons why. Ask him or her what would make the experience better. Brainstorm ways to get him more involved. Perhaps the discussion will help your child open up to group work.
Agreeing or disagreeing
When children work together, arguments can occur. The key is to teach your child how to argue without hostility. Debating about important topics is natural in life and in group work. Children need to learn how to get their point across without ridicule or going silent. Teach the right way to argue. Hold family meetings often. Discuss when and where you are planning your next family event. Encourage each member to give his or her own viewpoint and be respectful of each speaker. Participating in family discussions allows your child to hear other people’s opinions and to argue their own without being combative.
Trust is built through group work. Working in teams gives students the experience of depending on another person. For example, if your child works with another classmate on a science project, he must depend on his partner to bring to school certain materials. Your child must build trust with his or her group-mate. Just like adults, children can feel anxious when they have to depend on others. Your child may worry whether or not their teammate will follow through. Help them cope by teaching them to relinquish some control, just as adults do when they depend on police officers, doctors, and teachers. If you worry that your child may be the one to fall short, discuss with your child what it means to be reliable and suggest ways to show it.
Show your child the benefits to working in a group. Have them finish a task on their own. Then have them complete a task with a partner. Afterward, discuss the advantages. They may have completed the task faster. The work might have seemed easier. The approaches to solving the problem could have been more varied. Talk more about how group work feels in a classroom. Does it allow students to be more engaged? Does it make the work more interesting? Encourage your child to see the advantages of working with others, so they can view group work as fun.
Help your child be successful in school and in life by showing them how to work well with others. When they value all that group work has to offer, they will be more than prepared for the group work that lies ahead.