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5 Cooperative Learning Strategies To Try Today

Janelle Cox

Let’s face it, there are a lot of cooperative learning strategies out there to choose from. The most popular and most-utilized of the cooperative learning strategies is probably the Think-Pair-Share technique. This is where students think about a topic or question, then pair up with a classmate and share their thoughts about it. Educators use these types of cooperative learning strategies in their classrooms because first, they get the students to work together in a team, and second because they are an effective way for students to learn. However, it’s always a good idea to try out a new strategy or two to change things up a bit. Here are five cooperative learning strategies you probably haven’t tried yet.

1. Focused Listing Cooperative Learning Strategy

If you’re looking for a new brainstorming strategy then you’re going to love this one. The focused listing strategy is designed for students to generate words to define or describe something. For example, you would give the students a main topic, then ask them to create a list of words or phrases that describe that topic. From there, you can put students into small groups to discuss their lists or you can first put them into groups to generate the lists. Once the lists are completed, you can use the list to help facilitate a small group or whole-group discussion. If you are using the focused listing as a gateway to your lesson, then you can choose one list that all students agree upon and use that.

2. One-Minute Papers

This strategy can be used to gather feedback from you students after a lesson is taught. First, write the following questions on the front board and have students answer them by themselves.

  • What was the most important thing you learned from the lesson?
  • What is still unclear about the lesson? What questions do you still have?
  • What is one thing about the topic that you want to know more about?

Next, put students together into groups to facilitate a discussion. Have students do a Round Robin (take turns talking) and discuss each of their answers to the questions listed on the board. Once students have all answered the questions, then have students figure out which answers they have in common. They can then take this information and come up with the most popular answer to each question, which they then can discuss with the class as a whole.

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3. Uncommon Commonalities

If you are looking for a strategy that will help your students become more cohesive, then this is a great one to try. Group students into teams of four and have them come up with a team name. Give each team member a piece of paper and have them fold it the long way in fours and label each section, 1, 2, 3, and 4 at the top. Next, write a question on the front board, such as “How many siblings do you have?” The teams’ goal is to discuss the question with their group and figure out what they all have in common. If all four team members have one brother, then they will write that in column four, if all three of them have one brother then they will write that in column three and so on. The activity continues with each new question that is put on the board.

4. Forced Debate

This strategy requires students to use their communication skills to work within a group. Here’s how it works: The teacher writes a proposition on the front board, such as “Should there be a vending machine in the school cafeteria?” then the students who agree move to one side of the classroom and the students who disagree move to other side. Once students are on one side of the classroom, that is now their group. The teacher then forces them to debate the opposing side that they have chosen. This strategy really utilizes students’ critical thinking skills and forces them to really think about the question as a whole in order to argue for the opposing side rather than what they really feel about the question.

5. Cooperative Graffiti

Another great brainstorming technique to try is cooperative graffiti. This strategy requires students to think about a topic and write down as many ideas as possible using different-colored pens. To start, divide students into small groups and give each group a large, butcher block piece of paper and a variety of colorful pens. Write down a broad topic on the front board, and on your command “Go!”, instruct students to write down as many ideas as they can that correlate with the topic you wrote on the board. Once the time is up (about 5-10 minutes), then have students try and organize their colorful ideas into categories.

Have you tried any of these cooperative learning strategies yet? If so, how do you like them? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.