Camp, Key Competencies and Cooperation

 “Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everyone gets there.”

 Virginia Burden

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Do you work well with others? Do you normally find yourself in the driver’s seat or taking a more passive role when working as part of a group? Can you communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly, and can you listen to others? How well can you manage your frustration levels and are you good at understanding and dealing appropriately with your emotions? Can you negotiate to come to an agreement? If the Te Mihi Year 5’s couldn’t answer these questions about themselves before, they can now. 

Year 5 students rotated through a variety of camp-style activities. Mrs Young introduced them to a variety of cooperative learning style games and tasks. A cooperative activity can be described as one that requires participation from all group members to achieve the desired end goal. Cooperative activities often highlight areas of strength in individual students as well as areas they need to work on. Students must learn how to operate as part of a group as cooperative tasks and games by nature, cannot be completed by any one individual. 

Cooperative games and activities are an effective way to teach the key competencies as listed in the New Zealand Curriculum (2007). The 5 competencies are Managing Self, Relating to Others, Using Language Symbols and Texts, Participating and Contributing, and Thinking. In order to cooperate effectively, students need skills in all of the key competencies. Examples include sharing ideas, listening to others, being assertive, problem solving, thinking logically and critically, managing emotions, including others, understanding the task, recognising strengths in self and others, and having empathy. 

Some of the activities involved two students working together to solve a problem, others required the whole group of 20ish students to achieve a common goal, while others saw smaller ‘teams’ competing against each other to complete a task. 

A simple example of a two person cooperative task is ‘Rope Circle’. One student ties a skipping rope loosely around each wrist. The other student ties one end of the rope loosely around one of their wrists and then loops the rope through their partner’s rope before tying the other end to their other wrist. The pair must then work together to free themselves without removing the ropes from their wrists. The students thoroughly enjoyed this activity and many were able to complete the task. The real challenge was being able to remember how to solve the problem and then repeat the process. Students used thinking and communication skills to work together as the task required input from both parties. 

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Hunter and Fletcher attempt to untangle themselves from the rope circle.

‘Knots’ is a commonly used activity for a larger group. The students stand in a circle and then join hands with two other students in the group, except those immediately adjacent. The goal is to unravel the ‘knot’ without letting go of anyone’s hands. The year 5s completed this task in groups of around 10. As you can imagine, this didn’t start well with any of the groups. There was lots of yelling, releasing of hands, falling over and general confusion. The second attempts were more successful as the students began to realise the task required thought, communication and finesse. Most groups completed the task and some then moved over to help the remaining group to untie their ‘knot’. 

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A group of students untangle their human knot.

In another activity, the students tested their non verbal communication skills by attempting to get into a line in order of their birthdate. The obvious challenge in this was not being able to speak, but the students overcame this quickly by using a numerical representation for each month. The next challenge was communicating days of each month to one another. They did very well and apart from a few minor errors, the lines were very accurate. 

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Nic and Chloe communicate without speaking.

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Te Pou and Clara take the task very seriously.

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Just some fine tuning before the task is over. 

‘The Floor is Lava’ was the most difficult activity for the students in regard to their communication, emotional regulation and negotiation skills. In this activity the students were split into two teams of around 10 students. The task requires each team to cross the room, without touching the floor, using 6 carpet squares each. The catch? No carpet square can be left without a foot on it and no student can have both feet on one square. At times, frustration levels rose considerably and students found it hard to get along with each other much less negotiate how the task would be completed. The students had to really talk to each other and come up with a system to ensure the rules were adhered to. This took time and they needed some coaching at times around managing emotions. This was a fantastic way to demonstrate that success often comes after repeated failed attempts and that each failed attempt is an opportunity to learn and improve the overall plan. Eventually, all groups were able to move their entire team from one side of the room to the others. 

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Competing against the other team adds extra pressure. 

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The students had to be very aware of what was going on in front of them, and behind them.

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Fletcher waits for Nevaeh to have the next person join her before moving his foot to the next square. 

I really like ‘knots’ because I liked how we had to hold hands with people we didn't really know. It helped to make new friends. We had to work together as a team to untangle it. Not just one person could do it. - Chole

I liked getting to know people better and others got to know your personality better. - Nic 

I quite liked ‘rope circle’ because it was hard and fun at the same time. It was hard because sometimes you tried a tactic and it didn’t work but it was fun when you were successful. - Stacy

The students enjoyed the opportunity to do something different and were also able to interact with students they wouldn’t otherwise. Perhaps we may have uncovered some aspiring leaders or enabled a normally withdrawn student to try something new. 

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