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Lesson Plan #:AELP-INT019
Submitted by: Beth White; Wyoming Date: 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9


  • Interdisciplinary

Overview: Cooperation is a very important life skill. The business world finds that it is underdeveloped in our graduates. This activity is to be used in the initial stages of learning about cooperative learning. Students are aware of what cooperative learning is, and now they are going to experience it. The classroom should be divided into cooperative groups of no less than 3 and no more than 5 members per group.

Purpose: This lesson is to provide the students with practice in cooperative learning. The situation will give students the opportunity to evaluate the efforts of cooperative groups and evaluate their behavior in cooperative situations.


  • Students will work in a cooperative group to create a freestanding tower of straws and pins, in 10 minutes.
  • Students will view a video of the cooperative groups working and discuss the process.
  • Students will view a video of the cooperative groups working and list the things they could do as individuals to improve the cooperative effort of their group.
  • Materials: each group should have:

    • 50 drinking straws
    • 75 pins
    • a baggie
    • a magnet (to keep track of the pins)
    • You will need a camcorder and video tape for the debriefing process (another adult to film the activity works best).

    The classroom should be divided into cooperative groups with 3 to 5 members. You might put a lot of thought into the makeup of each group because this is an initial experience with cooperative learning. (make it a challenging situation). Don’t disclose the group compositions yet, or they won’t hear the instructions. Review what cooperative learning looks like, what it sounds like, and the expectations you have of group members. Deliver the instructions: Each group is responsible for building a freestanding tower of straws and pins. There is a 10 minute time limit. Your group is to stay in their work area. No additional materials or tools are to be used (only those included in the bag). The goal is to create the tallest tower. Tell them they will be filmed with a video camera for the debriefing portion of the lesson.

    Group the students, and have them sit in their work area. Give each group their bag of supplies. Set the alarm clock and have them start. The teacher’s role is that of a facilitator – do not interfere with comments or suggestions. If at all possible, have an aide or other adult video the construction. When the 10 minutes has expired measure the towers, and discuss the different construction and problem solving methods.

    Tying It All Together:

  • View the video.
  • List the problems that were encountered.
  • List the positive things that happened in the group.
  • List the things that each student would do differently if they could do the activity again.
  • Solicit suggestions of what might be improved in the activity itself.
  • After the students have some experience with cooperative learning, it is neat to do the same activity with the same groups and video the process. View both videos. Compare and contrast the group behavior before and after some experience with cooperative learning. Emphasize the growth the class has made as cooperative group members.