Kathie Bowles
  This is the first 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, Writing skills

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

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"

Participants will learn how to work as a team by delegating responsibilities within a group in order to complete an assignment involving the development and marketing of a particular product. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Learners will contribute their skills and ideas to a team effort. Learners will affirm each other's strengths as they coordinate their efforts with those of their teammates to accomplish a simple but fun task.

Primary Skill:
Cooperate with others

Secondary Skills:
Communication, Reflect and evaluate, Convey ideas in writing

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 their communication skills in determining separate responsibilities for each team member. Learners will then combine their different, specific jobs as a means of completing the project.

Learning Activity Description:

  1. Introduce this activity by telling the class that they are going to have an opportunity to use their imaginations and work together in a challenging project. Each team will be required to delegate the following jobs for "brainstorming."
    • Product design/remodel (all members)
    • Advertising
    • Demographic study
    • Marketing
    • Cost and accounting
    • Product presentation

  2. Divide the learners into heterogeneous teams with five members. If it is necessary to have smaller teams, some members will need to take on extra responsibility. Teams discuss one another's skills, interests, strengths and weaknesses, and decide who will take each job. Instructor will then give the team worksheets (Handout 1) explaining what the specific duties are in each category.

  3. Give each team a commonly used item such as a plastic drinking cup. (Each team receives the same item.) Each team ponders their item and observes it carefully. Teams are to determine how to "rename and/or rework" the item into a new, sellable product.

  4. Distribute Handout 2, "Developing a New Product: Basic Steps." Explain that these steps are suggestions for what is necessary to make the product economical and marketable to the public. Direct the learners to work together carefully, emphasizing the skills of each team member. The assignment is to write their ideas and findings according to the list of possible steps suggested in Handout 2.

  5. Explain that this session is the beginning phase of the project. Answer questions only briefly, then allow the teams to "brainstorm" and work for approximately one hour.

  6. At the end of the hour, give each team an opportunity to briefly explain their new product to the rest of the class. This is usually a really fun part of the class. Learners will be interested in the varied uses that different teams come up with for the same item.

  7. Debrief the exercise with the class using a discussion of 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, etc.

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 written exercise produced by each team is also an assessment of learners' teamwork efforts.

This exercise has been enjoyable and highly successful each time used. The learners have so much fun that they don't seem to realize all the skills they are actually using.


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