I always included some group work in my curriculum, so that my students are challenged to come together and work with others. This type of exercise teaches students to compromise, listen, speak out, follow directions, lead, and generally get along with others. I find that group work is key in assisting with my students social growth. In high school, learning proper social skills can be just as formative and important as it is in elementary school. Some of my students at my current school struggle to get along, or communicate with each other. (You might notice a few in the pictures below) However, not participating was not an option for my students. When or if a student pulled away from their group out of frustration they were quickly guided back. I do not take the safe and calm environment at our school for granted. Most of my students previous high school experiences included violence, fighting, and bullying. Our school tries very hard, and succeeds a majority of the time, to create a safe environment so that our students can experience more positive peer interaction, and maybe even have fun.
This being said, I have found that competition can be one of the best ways to engage my high schooler in their group work activities. Here are some images of our “Name Your States” competition. I designed a curriculum for a semester on artists from around the United States. We learned 3 new states and their capitals each day, slowly filling in a map of the US as we went. It was a fun way to bring some geography into the classroom and just as I had suspected the kids got really into the competition on the last day of the unit.