Teaching Teamwork in a Special Needs Classroom
So many years are devoted to preparing our students to be young men and women that will eventually transition into adulthood..
In addition, they could very well transition into an adult day program such as our PrimeTime Centers located right here in Carteret, New Jersey. What about teamwork, though? Our children are not alone in the classroom, nor will they be in the community or workplace. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) developed Soft Skills for Workplace Success, a specific curriculum that focuses on preparing youth, including those with disabilities, for readiness in the workplace. That includes workplace dynamics, a fancy term for teamwork.
How do we build teamwork in the special education classroom? The key is to start building the team immediately, at the beginning of class, while continuing to foster solid working relationships as time goes on. We must define teamwork, develop strategies to teach it and introduce fun, engaging activities in the classroom that students and staff can work on collaboratively.
The ability to communicate is a key factor. It also happens to be one of the other soft skills mentioned in Gateway School’s article, Soft Skills in the Employment Environment-Special Education Needs. That skill links the ability to work cooperatively, along with the ability to listen. Group members must be willing to do their share of the tasks. They must be able to solve problems and work toward a common goal. Of course, any team needs a leader or leaders with good team-based skills, modelled at first by the teacher.
Strategies to Teach Teamwork
Special needs learners lack, or struggle with, the emotional maturity or higher-order thinking skills of mainstream students of the same age. In order to develop activities that will teach them to plan, problem solve and communicate effectively in a team situation, we must strategize differently.
One approach that already works well is having a teacher or support person role-model leadership skills while the class performs a teamwork task. Organize students into mini-teams of two or three, and give them a small, easily achievable goal to work toward over a short timeframe. Make the task a written or visual one that has set check points, such as built-in mini-goals along the way. The best strategies will come from the classroom teacher, who knows the students best.
Suggested Activities to Teach Teamwork
Always base the activities on what the students already enjoy doing. The higher their comfort level, the more you can focus on teaching teamwork. For example, all kids love a class barbecue or party. Have them write out and complete the steps together. The display boards in school always need to be covered. Have kids arrange artwork on them as a team activity. Do you want to get messier or a bit more complicated? Bake a cake or some muffins with them. Different activities will require different levels of supervision. Besides, there will probably be plenty of cleaning up to do. There’s another teamwork activity, the possibilities are there if you look hard enough!
The Gateway School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Gateway School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.541.4400, or request a tour of The Gateway School located in Carteret New Jersey, just minutes off of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Chris Hoye, Principal-The Gateway School of Carteret, NJ