Kathie Bowles
  This is the second activity of a two-part project on Communicating at Work. The lessons could easily be combined into one learning activity or used separately as presented here. The lessons in the project are: 1. Putting together a team 2. Developing a new product

  Critical thinking, Interpersonal relationships, Job skills, Life skills, Listening skills, Problem solving, Work environment

Learner Level:
  Appropriate for multi-level learners because there is enough variety for each learner to have some degree of competency (math, writing, art, speaking, etc.)

Time Frame:
  2-hour session, possibly spilling over to a second day

Learner Grouping:
  Whole class working in teams

  I have a combination Families First/ABE class of anywhere from 7-10 students each day. They range in age from 18 to 77 (only one man has managed to stick it out), and we meet from 8 AM to 12 PM. They are a very personable group, get along well with one another, and all appear eager to try new things. All have the basic skills (grade levels 5-8.9) and half of those are in the credentialing level (9-12.9). So presently I have a group that can blend skills easily for team projects. They also all work well individually. This makes it easy for me to give individual help if needed. Our setting is a large classroom with computers, conference tables, etc. It is easily used for a variety of activities. We can do "book work," or use the room to create a workplace environment with ease. This activity was conducted around conference tables to give participants a feeling of a business "conference" or "brainstorming" atmosphere.

Families First is the Tennessee program to provide training for those welfare recipients who lack basic education skills. While learners do work toward a GED, emphasis in these classes is shifting toward the knowledge, skills, and attitudes learners need to acquire and keep a good job.


  Smith County Families First/ABE

Type of Program:

Student Population Served:
  Basic skills, grade levels 5.0 - 8.9
Credentialing, grade levels 9.0 - 12.9

"Communicating at work: Developing a new product"

Working in teams, participants apply their ingenuity to create "something out of nothing." They then develop an imaginary market for their product and design advertising strategies using their knowledge of the area in which they live. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Learners will contribute their talents and ideas to a team effort. Learners will affirm each other's strengths as they coordinate their efforts to arrive at a solution to a whimsical challenge.

Primary Skill:
Cooperate with others

Secondary Skills:
Communication, Reflect and evaluate, Plan, Resolve conflict and negotiate, Speak so others can understand

Learner Needs & Goals:
More and more, teamwork is "how the job gets done." Learners need to know how to work in teams and how to value the contributions that each member can make in achieving a goal or accomplishing a task. This particular activity is an opportunity for learners to use many skills including imagination and the acting upon their ideas. While working together, they will learn the importance of accepting and utilizing their skills together to accomplish their goal.

Learning Activity Description:
This is a continuation activity based on the development of teamwork concepts. The development of a new product can only be achieved after the team members have worked together to assign responsibilities and be familiar with the guidelines given. If the previous lesson in this project was completed, learners have already begun to develop some teamwork expertise. Keep the same teams for this activity unless there were serious problems with the teams in the first activity.

  1. Introduce this activity by explaining that the same teams are going to use some of the same teamwork skills to develop a new product. New objects are given to each team. (This time, each team has a different object or combination of objects. Teams are not in competition with each other.) Distribute the handouts, "Team Member Responsibilities" and "Developing a New Product."

  2. Teams may reorganize team member responsibilities (trade jobs within the team) based on their previous team experience, if they wish. Teams brainstorm as before to determine their project and start to determine their strategies for product development. Each team member then takes primary responsibility for one phase of the development of the project according to the assigned title of responsibility. Team members can check costs by making telephone inquiries, discuss demographics, and investigating possible advertising avenues.

  3. Team members should document their findings and ideas, prepare posters and advertisements, and submit their plans to other team members to prepare for presentation.

  4. At the end of the session (approximately 2 hours), give each team an opportunity to briefly explain and define their "new" product and the planned methods to make it marketable to the rest of the class. (The presentations can be made the next class period if more time is needed.)

  5. Debrief the exercise with the class using a discussion of (1) the feasibility of the various plans, and (2) the importance of planning, teamwork, and research when completing any work assignment.

Materials and Resources:

  • Items for marketing: suggestions include plastic cups, nail and string, piece of cardboard, by-product of some other operation, a recyclable item, etc.
  • Drawing materials including paper, pencils, crayons
  • Telephone access
  • Camera

Attachments: (For Internet Explorer users, right click on link then choose "Save target as". For Netscape users, just hold down the shift key and click on the link.)

To assess the teamwork used by each team, observe how each team works to see if all members contribute their ideas and energies to the project. Generalized observations by the instructor of team functioning can be made during the debriefing of the exercise at the end of the class. The uniqueness and completeness of the project presentation by each team is also an assessment of learners' teamwork efforts.

Aside from the fun this exercise always promotes, learners also gain a sense of their own capabilities. A bit of competitiveness between the teams just automatically seems to surface, and it's a learning experience for both participants and instructor.


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