Working as a team
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Working as a team

In this activity, participants are introduced to the importance of working in teams by planning how to build a tower and then reflecting on the skills needed to work together. Following the activity, participants will reflect on some of the key skills involved in team work. The activity is highly interactive and good be a good catalyst and "touch-back" for future activities. This is the first of a series of 12 activities to introduce teamwork.

Learning objectives:
Identify reasons why a job is done better when people work together; Experience how a group works together to solve a problem; Practice reading, writing, thinking critically, and making action plans.


    Communication skills
    Decision-making -- Plan
    Decision-making -- Solve problems
    Interpersonal -- Cooperate with others
    Lifelong learning -- Take responsibility for learning
    Lifelong Learning -- Reflect and evaluate

    Job skills
    Life skills
    Problem solving

Time: 1-2 hours, flexible

Level: Multilevel


    Whole class
    Small group

Materials & Resources:

    Markers for writing names
    Paper clips
    Masking tape
    Rulers or yard sticks
    Different sizes of index cards
    Prize (candies or cokes, etc.)

The activity was developed as part of the Tennessee Workforce Learning Project in 1993. It was conducted extensively in seventeen work sites with front line workers who had a wide range of basic skills. This activity is a simulation of a team working together in a workplace to achieve a common goal. The activity also includes a "meeting-like" reflection component.

Student needs and goals:
Learning more about the work environment and functioning in teams.

This session follows a six step format:

    (1) Start-up
    (2) Introduction
    (3) Activity
    (4) Learning from experience
    (5) Learning checklist
    (6) Action plan

Start-Up - 10 minutes Greet participants. Ask them to introduce themselves if they do not know each other. In working as a team it is important to know your co-workers. Pass out the participant notes for Session 1.

Talk about ground rules, the session format and the learning objectives. Ask for questions. Remember to give positive reinforcement whenever possible and appropriate.

Introduction - 5 minutes
On a flip chart write the following questions and ask the group to discuss their answers, writing their responses on the flip chart.
Why is it useful for people to work together?
What does it take for people to work together?

Activity - 15 minutes

    Explain the purpose of the activity.
    Ask participants to look at their participant notes for Session 1.
    Read instructions while participants follow along.
    Pass out the materials for tower building.
    Call time at appropriate intervals.
    When finished, congratulate the group for their work, measure the tower, and if it is taller than 45" award a prize.
Learning from Experience - Reflection - 10 minutes
Questions for critical reflection are for the group to reflect on their tower building experience. To assist in that process, there are five questions in the participant notes. The facilitator should select the questions that are most appropriate and be sensitive to the needs of the group. You may want to ask the learners to write out their answers individually. Then in small groups discuss their answers.

Mori Motonari (1497-1571), a Japanese warlord, when he was on his deathbed, assembled his three children. He gave each child an arrow to break, which each child did. He then asked that three other arrows be bound together, then each child took a turn at trying to break the bound arrows, but without success. Individually, the arrows offered no resistance, but together they were formidable. That lesson was not forgotten by the Mori heirs, and certainly not by the rest of the country in the generations to come.
D. J. Lu Inside Corporate Japan, 1987

Learning Checklist - 3 minutes
Ask participants to fill out the learning Checklist Form.

Action Plan - 2 minutes
Explain that the purpose of this action plan is to focus on what was important to them during the session. This is what they learned about team work and what they will do differently because of it. Encourage learners to be as specific as possible. Reflective writing will be easier for some participants than others.

Small groups will work together around tables. The group members will need to be able to stand up and move around. Tables are the flat surface for the activity. Groups will need space between them.

The discussion on when a person might use team skills at work offers reinforcement. Remember to ask participants about the jobs they have had and when they used job skills. Ask participants to discuss why these skills will be helpful for employment.

COMMENT: Most groups become very engaged in planning a building towers. Since some groups are not able to solve the problem, it is good to give them a second try. Almost all groups can solve it the second time. Redoing the tower shows people how much they learn from experience. Even teams that were able to build a tower the first time can do it much faster the second time.

In the start-up, a pre-assessment can be done in a group format by asking participants to describe the experiences they have had being on a team. If some have never been on a team, ask participants to talk about how a family is like a team.

The reflection serves as a post-assessment. The answers to the five questions and the discussion can be used to assess what has been learned.

The learning checklist serves as an evaluation by learners. The checklists can be collected by the instructor.

Name: Dent Davis
Program Type:
Program address:
606 Forest Hills Blvd.; Knoxville, TN 37919
Phone: (423) 450 5036
Fax: (423) 450-5070

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