How to Use Team Points (and why it works!)

In my classroom management, I like to implement systems on three levels of accountability: hold students accountable individually, as teams/ small groups, and as a whole class.  This is how I use team points for small group accountability: 

How I use team points in my own classroom:
-teams of 4 are optimal (because it’s two partnerships… also, it’s small enough where everyone is accountable, but big enough that there’s not too much pressure on any one student)
-the teams have their desks together and sit together when other grouping is not in place
-teams work together to earn points
-the points are recorded on the board or on a chart so everyone can see them
-only I can award team points (But I can invite another teacher to give their opinion on which team/s have earned points.  This keeps other teachers from completely taking over your own system, but allows for some continuity.) 
-the team with the most points at the end wins a prize
-during the first month or so, prizes are awarded after a week
-once students have ‘bought in’ and the system is in place, switch over to awarding prizes after two weeks (I like to take advantage of a shorter school week to say, “Oh, this is a short week, let’s keep these teams until the end of next Friday instead,” as a trial for the longer time period.)
-immediately after the winners have been named, move the students into new teams.
-the winning team is responsible for erasing all of the previous points from the chart, so it’s ready for a fresh start (because they are leaders, and leaders show responsibility for the whole group!)
-there’s an editable map (in PowerPoint) of our classroom that I use to create new teams by moving the students’ names around.  I keep it secret until it’s time for the students to switch into new teams.  Then, I project it onto the board and let the students move their desks to match the map.

Why this system works so well (for me):
-Moving the students so frequently helps the kids get to know each other and creates a stronger bond and class culture.
-If parents (or students!) are upset about their seat placement, I can just remind them that it’s only for (at most) ten school days, and then they will be moved to a different spot with a different partner and different team.
-Almost all of the responsibility for running the system is on the students.  They move their desks, they set up the team points chart, and they can even collect their own prizes (if you set up a system for it).  The teacher just needs to award points and make the new seating chart by moving the names around on the slide.
-This system grows with your students, as they mature.  In the beginning of the year, I spend a lot of time awarding points for things like: getting ready on time, listening, raising your hand, having your pencil, etc…. basic direction following and things we need to do to have order in the classroom.  As the students mature, I start to award points for things like: making sure your partner understands a concept, reminding your team to bring home their math book for the homework assignment, being honest even when it’s hard, making good choices,  working hard to improve in something, or helping someone from another team clean their desk and get organized.  At first, students will do these things to earn points, but eventually, it just becomes part of your class culture and part of who the students are as human beings.

Happy Teaching (with teams)!!
Christine Cadalzo

PS: You can get my printable Team Points chart parts here, if you don't want to make your own. 

Ways to Talk About Teamwork

Teamwork is one of the most important skills we can teach our students.  It’s one of those things that they will need to rely on in almost every aspect of adult life, and yet sometimes it gets pushed aside in our busy teaching schedules.  Here are some ways to add teamwork to your teaching:

1.  Read books about teams.
Work some teamwork examples and discussions into your literacy block by doing read alouds that have a teamwork theme, or even just adding more books about teamwork to your classroom library.

Some of my favorites are:
Picture books:
Swimmy by Leo Leonni
The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll
The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Chapter books:
The View From Saturday  by EL Koningsburg
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Holes by Louis Sachar

Teammates by Peter Golenbock

Together by George Ella Lyon

2. Post and share teamwork quotes.
Hang them up around the room,  add them into your own teacher talk, and draw attention to thetimes when kids say valuable things about teamwork.  Make quotes part of your pervasive class culture so much that the kids start saying things like, “teamwork makes the dream work!”

3. Reflect after cooperative learning, partner or team activities.
Give students time to pause and reflect on how well they personally worked with their partner or team.  What did they do to support their teammates?  What support did they receive?  What did they say or do that contributed to the success of the goup?  How could they have been more helpful?  What could they improve for next time?

4. Share real life examples of great teams.
Sports, music, technology, and art all provide concrete, real world examples of teams and how they function.  Encourage students to think about their favorite groups, teams, or even partnerships and to look at how they work together to make great things happen.  (And what happens when things fall apart and they are less successful.)  Who are the team’s role models for being a great teammate?  Who makes a great leader or team captain, and why?  How do they handle success or failure?  What do they say about themselves, their team, and their teammates?

5. Talk about teamwork examples in the content areas.
Animals work together in nature all the time.  (Leaf cutter ants are a particularly good example.)  History is full of examples of people working together for a common cause.  How do they do it?  How do they accomplish difficult, incredible things by working together?  What can they do together that they could not do on their own?

6. Be a role model.
Be transparent and let your students see how you work as a part of a team- with their parents, with administrators, with your colleagues.  Whenever it’s appropriate, let them see how you communicate, divide up tasks, share ideas,  and handle frustrations. 

Happy (teamwork) Teaching!!

Christine Cadalzo