How often has this scenario played out in your classroom? You’ve planned a fantastic lesson that involves students working together and learning together. In your well-crafted plans, the students are engaged in the activities, supporting one another and growing as a learning activity. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? So why don’t these activities always work out as planned?
Although there may be many factors at play, it could simply be that children are unable to work together properly because they do not know how to support one another. By using cooperative games ways, children will become critical thinkers, learn to work with one another and apply skills to accomplish team goals.
Cooperative games help children develop the essential skills of cooperation, communication, empathy and conflict resolution by giving them an opportunity to work together toward a common goal. These games require the skills of everyone in the group, not of just one or two people. There is no sole winner. All children will benefit since no one is left out and the focus is on the success of the team as a whole. Throughout this process of cooperation, children are critically thinking of their strategies and making quick decisions, while they are verbally and physically interacting with one another and therefore, developing their cognitive abilities. Children learn how individual efforts unite to help the team accomplish goals. Think about that child in your class who has great ideas, but is not athletic or competitive. How do we address such needs when that child does not want to participate in the competitive aspect of games?
Contrasting this with competitive games, in which there is direct competition between individuals or groups as it can produce poor self-esteem with those who are on the losing end. Not all children have that competitive edge needed in order to win. This is why you’ll see why cooperative games can play such a big role in teaching and reinforcing “peacemaking” skills.
I played a game called “Everybody Wins Race.” Two teams in groups of fours are side-by-side and arm in arm. They are to race across the room and back but when they come to the finish line, the two teams must cross the finish line at the same time.
Creating Guidelines & Goals
Have participants create ground rules or guidelines before you begin cooperative games. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down, but avoid too many rules. Here are some basic rules:
1. Safety first. No one gets hurt. Never compromise the safety of yourself or others.
2. Everyone plays (i.e. no one is excluded and the games are structured so that everyone can join in)
3. Challenge by choice. If someone wants to sit out, that’s okay.
4. Everyone has fun
5. Everyone wins
Can you add more thoughts between Cooperative and Competitive games?