An Example of a Cooperative Learning Activity (2nd grade)
Author: Melissa Jackelow

My second grade class has been learning about communities.  They have already learned about Henry Ford and his use of assembly lines to make cars.  They have also learned about Abraham Levitt who used assembly lines to build a planned community (now the town of Levittown, Long Island).  Today they will be working in cooperative groups to simulate assembly lines.  This activity will give the students a concrete understanding of how assembly lines work and their ability to build things in a faster manner.

At the beginning of the lesson, tell students they will be working in groups to make an assembly line (The students are already seated in 5 groups of 5: heterogeneously grouped).  Review rules for working in groups by focusing their attention on the chart in the front of the room.  Rules for working in groups are as follows:  Speak in an “indoor” voice (quietly, not screaming); talk out problems; cooperate with others; encourage members in your group (say nice things to each other); materials should be used as tools, not toys; and stay seated.  The students have seen these rules many times, but will need to review the meanings of each rule every time they work in groups (e.g. what does it mean to cooperate?).

Review with students what an assembly line is and in what ways Ford and Levitt used it.  Stress that one of the main reasons assembly lines are used is to build things faster.  Tell students that today they are going to pretend that they are part of an assembly line that is making widgets.  Demonstrate how to make a widget.
 Step 1: Fold paper (bottom to mid page)
Step 2: Staple the right side of the paper together (students have hands on their name tags showing them which side is left and right)
 Step 3: Draw a star on the folded part of the paper
 Step 4: Put a clip on the left side of the paper


              clip        (Dr. Mac's note: Unfortunately, the diagram did not "paste" from Melissa's original document.  It showed a fold line across, a staple in the lower right corner, a paper clip attached to the left side of the lower part, and a star in the middle of the bottom part)   

Each step is written on chart paper and posted in the front of the room.

Explain to students that each person in the group will be responsible for doing only one of the steps.  Once they complete their step they pass it on to the next person, who then completes their step.  One person in the group will be responsible for making the widgets on their own (they will be the control).  This person will need to do all of the steps. They are not part of the assembly line.  Make sure that all students understand the instructions by randomly questioning them.

Tell students that they will have two minutes to make as many widgets as they can.  Make sure students understand that they do not wait for one widget to be finished before starting the next. The first person should fold the paper and hand it to the next person.  Once they hand it over they should immediately take a new piece of paper and begin making the next widget.  The activity will be done several times, so that students get to experience different parts of the process.

Each table has a “table star” (these change each month).  The star of the table is responsible for getting the supplies needed for their group.  All of the supplies needed for each group are in a color-coded basket in the front of the room.  Two sets of supplies are needed for each group because each group has an assembly line and a control.  Supplies include: a stack of white paper, a container of paper clips, a stapler, and a marker.  The control’s supply is in a plastic bag (in the basket) containing all the things he/she will need.   The stars of each table are called up to the front of the room to get the basket that matches the color of their table.

Assign roles to students.  Tell them that the table star will be the “control,” the one who will be working alone.  The person next to him will have the role of step 1 (folding paper).  Then going in order around the group the rest of the roles are assigned.  Tell students they have 1 minute to get their supplies in order.  To ensure that they are paying attentive, have them give you “five” (a predetermined signal for getting their attention).  When all students are giving you five tell them that you are going to set the timer for two minutes.  When the timer goes off they are to put down all materials and focus their attention on the teacher.  Make sure all students are aware of their role.  Ask if they have any questions and let them begin.

The teacher should circulate while the students are working to make sure that everyone is doing their job correctly.  There is a clipboard with a sheet of paper containing each students name in a box on the teacher’s desk.  This is to be used while monitoring student’s work.  Any difficulties the students may have (e.g. working cooperatively, fine-motor skills, not participating…) should be written in the appropriate box.  Praise should be given to students who are working together nicely and following the rules.

When the timer goes off, tell the students to stop working and give you “five.”  Ask students to count how many widgets they made and how many the “controls” of each group made.  Make a chart on the board with two columns, one titled assembly lines and one titled “controls”. Record the results.  Give students one minute to switch roles.  Repeat the activity a few more times, recording their results each time.

After repeating the activity several times call students’ attention to the chart on the board. Discuss the results (the assembly lines should have made many more widgets than the controls).  Ask students to discuss with their groups why they think the assembly lines made more widgets then the controls.  Give the students a few minutes to discuss their answers while the teacher circulates.  When students seem to be finished talking about the results, ask them to give you “five.”  Discuss each group’s answers.  Ask if anyone has any questions.  Tell students they have one minute to put the materials back into the basket.  Have the table stars put the baskets away.

Thanks Melissa!