we are a team classroom

10 Ways to Build Team Classroom

We are team classroom. Learning can be a solo venture. It can also be a team sport. (Thanks to Krissy Venosdale of Venspired for letting me use the graphic on this post.)

No bystanders.

When you build team classroom, you unleash a giant. Your class can learn more, grasp more, and move faster. Students learn to appreciate each other's strengths and work together.

10 Ways to Build Team Classroom

1. Have a wordless way to ask for help.

Flags, indicators, cups. Something. Teach team classroom to spring into action when someone is struggling. As the teacher, be one of those who helps those struggling too. You're part of the team.

One of my secrets of an awesome classroom is empowering everyone to help. There are no bystanders.

We have these cards I call “flip cards” or “station cards.” Each student gets one, and they slide into a slot above the computer where everyone can see. When everything is great, the card is green. When they are stuck, the card is red. If they just want to talk to me (not urgent, have a question like a grade, etc.) the card is blue. If they are away for a moment (like checked out to the bathroom), the card is yellow.

But what is awesome is what happens when someone sees the card flip to red. It reminds me of rafting.

Before you go down the Nantahala river, they give you this talk. I've heard the talk at least 50 or more times.

“When someone falls in the water, it is a red flag. Everyone's goal becomes to get that person back into the boat.”

A red card is a similar call for help. If I'm not available or across the room, everyone's goal is to help that person get back on track. Of course, there's one significant rule — no hands on anyone else's mouse. Help one another do it themselves.


2. Help students appreciate everyone's unique strengths.

I like to discuss:

  • how the brain works,
  • personality types, or
  • anything that helps students see that “book smart” is not the only smart.

When they start appreciating talents, they become more confident of their own. They become grateful of strengths in others.

[callout]Classroom example. Fifth grade teacher Laura Candler talks about how she used an “intelligences” quiz to do this with her students.[/callout]

3. Praise the types of behaviors you want to see with growth mindset words.

Talk about your team classroom with words. “We work together.” Things like on the poster above. Study great coaches. Learn how they help their team work together in positive ways.

“I am so proud of how you worked that out.”

“I noticed how you all listened to everyone's opinion.”

[callout]Classroom example. Read the Teaching Growth Mindset post including the words that you should say to promote a growth mindset.[/callout]

Teaching Growth Mindset with these 10 Statements

Teaching Growth Mindset with these 10 Statements by Sylvia Duckworth

4. Be clear when things you're doing are NOT team classroom type activities.

Tests, if you have to give them are definitely a solo endeavor.

5. Plan celebrations together of great achievements.

Today in my classroom we're having a “screening party.” Everyone has finished their movies and we're watching them. We're bringing breakfast foods. I'm planning to tell them just how I feel about their accomplishments. They've worked so hard together.

[callout]Classroom Example. You can see the Invent this project we did on our public wiki.[/callout]

6. Let students lead.

When you ask a question, step back and let them discuss it.

teachers should be a resource not the source (1)

When you have them in charge of something, you can advise when they ask, but let them find their way. As Kevin Honeycutt said on a recent show, “teachers should be the resource, not the source.”

Let students volunteer to lead and give them titles like:

  • Project Manager,
  • Assistant Project Manager,
  • Editor, etc..

When they come to you with problems, teach them how to work through the problem. Only get involved in the rarest of circumstances.

[callout]Classroom example. When my students created their app projects last year, they did it. I was an advisor. They led. You can see their teams, presentations and videos. Note that these teams were across classrooms. Every team had someone from one of four classes. They used Trello to coordinate their work.[/callout]

[callout]Leadership and Mystery Location Idea. One of my favorite aspects of the book Connecting Your Students with the World book by Blumengarten,Krakower, and Naugle is the leadership positions they designate as part of the mystery location calls.  If you're doing Mystery Location Calls or “Mystery Skypes”, you can build team classroom NOW with their ideas.[/callout]

7. Value your students' opinions.

Students will come to you for opinions. I always ask what they think first.

I also work to include students in other conversations. For example, a teacher asked me about the graphic design of a piece. I said,

“__*student name*__ has a great eye for graphic design. _*student name*__ do you have a moment to give us your thoughts on this piece?”

Help students become known for their strengths.

8. Be willing to admit when you're learning or mess up.

We all mess up. When I make a mistake or inadvertently have a misunderstanding, I privately apologize to the child.

There have been a few times I found out that something I said was misconstrued by several kids. When that happened, I apologized publicly in front of the class with that person's permission. Every single child deserves respect. To be a team, you must respect all of the teammates. When teachers mess up and cover it up, they are not behaving honorably for their team. These teachers are undermining themselves by letting their pride keep them from doing what is right.

9. Never speak ill of another student or teacher when they are not present.

If students want to say something negative about any other person, it will not happen in my classroom. If they want to talk privately to me about a problem they are having with another student, that is fine. But a public “dissing” with other kids will not be tolerated. There's too much gossip, slander, and unkindness in the world today. My classroom is a place of respect and people who are not there deserve to know that their reputation is safe in my classroom.

10. Let the Class Set Team Goals

When you plan activities, projects, or initiatives — let the class set team goals. The #choose2matter movement is an incredible model for how to do this. (Listen to Angela Maiers talking about this program and get a copy of her free ebook Liberating Genius.)

Students should have social entrepreneurship projects. They can choose to make a difference in the world together. Unleashing student creativity in this way creates a passion for the project and for learning how to do the project. You can incorporate passion-based projects into any subject.

[callout]Classroom examples. Pauline Roberts and Sciracy, the 4 Liter challenge, and my students talking about passion-based learning are three examples of passion based learning in action.[/callout]

You have a classroom. You build a team. Build team classroom.

Teamwork certainly makes the dream work. But the secret is to have great dreams and build highly effective teams. Everyone doesn't have to get along. But everyone should “get” what you're teaching and be able to work as a team. You can do it.

Speaking of teams, we're a team. Team teacher. That is who we are. We reflect. We encourage. We help each other be more. Go team! Be an awesome educator every day. We can do this!

[callout]Attribution note. UPDATE: I've been told that Krissy Venosdale at Venspired created this graphic (shout out to Janelle Wilson and Sarah Schleehauf  on Facebook who let me know this.) Krissy gave us permission to use the graphic within moments. Yeah! I'm reaching out to Krissy to see if she will allow the graphic to stay on this post and a place to link the sourceThe graphic at the top of this post seems to have come from teachfactory.com, however, that domain name is for sale, and I can't find any trace of the company. It is an incredible graphic. [/callout]

Free kindness reminders poster

Powered by ConvertKit
Picture of Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

All Posts »

1 comment

zodwa October 13, 2015 - 3:44 pm

Powerful information that could be useful in our school


Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
Update Required Flash plugin