How is cooperation established in any group of kids? In the classroom? On the ball field? What I keep coming back to is this: Before there can be cooperation, there has to be agreement between you (the group leader), and your participants about the mission of the group. At In Step, our shared mission is to create a safe, supportive space where group members can build relationships. As the school year starts up again children are in lots of new group settings. How can group leaders establish cooperation in any kind of group setting? Take a look at these five simple steps:
Step One: Establish Purpose
Once you agree on a shared vision for your group, you can always revisit it in the future. If you feel the group is losing its way, go back to home base. Ask group members: “Where are we right now? Are we on track or have we strayed from our purpose?”
Step Two: Set Boundaries
All groups have rules. Soccer teams, classrooms, slumber parties. They all have rules whether assumed or unspoken. Ask group members to help you establish rules and guidelines. “What are the rules and guidelines that might help this group feel productive and safe?”
Step Three: Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Enlist the help of your group by asking questions aloud that build cooperation and teamwork. “Is what we are doing right now working towards our mission of building relationships? If the answer is “no”, what needs to happen for that to change? Ask group members to help figure it out.
Step Four: S.O.A. R.
The SOAR method will help you encourage mindfulness and self-correction.
S: Stop Action: “Freeze up for a second, group.”
O: Observe Out Loud: “Look what’s happening here.”
A: Ask for Feedback: “Are we working towards our mission? How are we doing that?”
R: Reinforce Cooperation: “The group agrees that we are working together. Good work.”
Step Five: Work Less so Your Group Members Can Work More
A phenomenon that inevitably happens with any successful group or in any classroom is that the children begin to take over the maintenance and overall functioning of the group. They will begin to police themselves and develop guidelines to make the group their own.
Once the kids develop trust in you and your joint mission, group cohesion, teamwork and cooperation are natural bi-products.
Have more questions about your group? I’d love to hear from you.