Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

Student Engagement: Motivation Through Cooperative Learning

The development of student relationships is an important skill that is acquired throughout a child’s education. It is critical to implement social and emotional skills for the well-being of the entire class. These skills allow students to build positive relationships with their peers and with their teacher.
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Professional Action Research Team Goal

  • To improve student engagement and motivation through cooperative learning

  • Use strategies that engage and motivate students through the development of cooperative skills where there are multiple opportunities to interact with peers


  • Austin ISD Social and Emotional Learning Standards at the Elementary Level: 4th grade

  • SEL Professional Development: Using SEL in the Physical Education Gym

  • CASEL: Instructional Strategies that Promote Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

  • Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov for grades K-12: "Turn and Talk"

Self-Assessment Cooperation and Effort Rubric

Each 4th-grade-class was surveyed prior to PART research and after PART research strategies were implemented, using the Self-Assessment Cooperation and Effort Rubric ( Each of the 4 classes were surveyed once in music, P.E., and art class (3 times-totaling 84 points). Data concluded that each class increased its final scores by at least 23%. Each class was surveyed in cooperation and motivational skills. The categories scored were, helping, listening, participating, persuading, questioning, respecting and sharing. Charts show Pre-PART points and Post-PART data points along with totals. The maximum amount of total points a class can earn is 84.


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Mills' class increased 30%
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Moorlat's class increased 20%
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De La Rosa's class increased 32%
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Vasquez's class increased 32%


Instructional Strategies that Promote SEL tool 33 & Using Social Emotional Learning

Theory: Checklist offered to create a safe, welcoming and well managed learning environment. Strategies help establish a relationship-centered learning environment for practicing and applying SEL throughout the school day.

Implementation: SEL short checklist for effective classroom instructional strategies for teaching, modeling and reinforcing social and emotional competencies.

Outcome: Build positive relationships with other students and teachers and learn cooperative learning skills.

  1. Established greetings with each student as they entered the classroom.
  2. Starting a lesson with open ended questions and ask "What do you think?" rather than "Why?" questions to stimulate divergent thinking.
  3. Introduce new skills and information providing clear and concise instructions and model tasks when appropriate and offering students the right to pass to honor different learning styles.
  4. Prepare students for guided practice modeling before asking students to practice and apply new skills and knowledge
  5. Managing discipline, enforcing the ground rules and classroom agreements consistently. Handle problems quickly and discreetly and encourage students to discuss solutions rather than blame others.

Teaching Core Competencies

Theory: The purpose of this activity was to access each others strengths and limitations, practice empathy skills, process and manage emotions and solve problems.

Implementation: Spend a few minutes of class engaging in group discussion on the SEL core competencies. The students and teacher work as a team in discovering each other skills. The teacher makes sure to celebrate individual differences and allow the students to promote them with confidence. In addition, teachers and students learn about regulating emotions to effectively control impulses, stress, and behaviors using techniques like self- calming belly breaths learning to control intensities of strong feelings.

Outcome: Maintain positive relationships with other students and adults, learn responsible decision making skills and practice empathy and self awareness among classmates. Demonstrate awareness of personal qualities and has a sense of personal responsibility.

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Peace Area Materials and Guidelines

  1. Using the peace area is voluntary.
  2. The teacher gives permission to use the peace area.
  3. A student who is upset can request to spend time in the peace area. Two students who want tor resolve a problem can request time in the peace area.
  4. Set a time limit in the peace area. It is used for problems that can be solved in 5 minutes or less. The goal is for students to return to regular classroom activity as soon as possible.
  5. The teacher will check with the student afterward to debrief and make sure the issue was resolved.
Peace are anchor charts - at the peace are and the conflict resolution anchor chart/peace path. Some of the items in the peace include:

  • Chairs, beanbags, table
  • Student feelings artwork
  • Stuffed toys, lamp, stressball
  • Books on conflict
  • Sand timer
  • Sand timer or other measurement tools
  • Paper
  • Pens, pencils, markers, crayons
  • Sign in sheet to monitor

Turn and talk strategy

Theory: Turn and talk is a language support strategy that provides interactions between students to formulate ideas and to share their thoughts with other students.

Implementation: Students have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas in a very low risk setting. Talking with a peer allows them to use language that is close to where their level is-making it less difficult to express their idea or thought. Strategy works if partners are strategically placed in close proximity to each other sharing ideas and respecting each others turn to talk. Students will ask questions and model certain ideas if asked to do so. Students will know a return signal that will allow them to wrap up conversations and return to their seats.

Outcome: Build positive learning relationships with peers and teachers, recognize responsibility and make constructive decisions..


Implementation of the program allows for a positive classroom climate that is conductive to learning and fosters social interaction. We are planning the continuation of SEL strategies and the turn and talk strategy for next school year. Results show improvement in student relationships, cooperation and effort. Additionally, the strategies have improved classroom climate. Students are sharing ideas and working as a team to accomplish a shared goal while developing necessary 21st century skills.