Students Learn Team Work

Students Learn Team Work


The Knot

When:  July 9, 2010
What:   Untying the Knot team building activity
Where:  University of Houston, main campus
Who:  Team Tough Love

  • 27 high school students from different regions     of Houston: Alief, KIPP, Lee, Spring Woods, Yes Prep South East, and Yes Prep East End
  • 5 volunteer team leaders
  • 1 instructor

Why:  Why knot?  Team Building opens the problem-solving space to new approaches empowered by each voice and promotes trust.
How:  The Game of Real Life Program
Mission:  Break the patterns of poverty.
Resolve:  Start a new pattern.

The Game of Real Life empowers.  It begins with a vision essay assignment that prods each student to articulate, type, and print a vision of themselves in 10 years.  For some students, locating a computer, Internet, and printer in order to communicate electronically is the first problem-solving hurdle.  With the 10-year visual as the core driver, the curriculum molds around how to make the destination a reality for each student.  This involves walking students through the financial and educational planning resources necessary to provide the student with a birds-eye-view perspective detailing routes, important action items like US taxes, and academic achievement goals to make the 10-year dream a reality.

The curriculum helps students learn how to better assess their vision plan and alternatives emphasizing what questions to ask versus just knowing the answers.  This Socratic approach allows students to learn flexibility and leaves them better able to adjust to surprise obstacles or detours en route to their vision destinations.  This is critical considering how often plans normally change after High School. The sell of sitting through 120 hours of planning to any grade school student can pose as a challenge.  But why do so many Game graduates return and give up a chunk of their summers, often as volunteers, in order to help new students?  Team Building, one of the key components of the program, produces the pearl of collaborative spirit.

Classes are broken up into permanent teams of five or six.  Each member takes turns wearing the role title Team EditorTeam ManagerTeam ReporterTeam Spokesperson, and Time Keeper.  A rotating appointment of team positions affords the students to identify natural strengths, as well relative weaknesses to work on.  The curriculum assignments repeatedly require engagement, interaction, and conclusive class presentation.  In a safe learning environment and question inducing culture, even the shy and quiet communicate. Each team embodies an organized camaraderie entity, unified by the clear purpose of growth and 10-year dreams.  Here is an example of how the team positions are introduced:

1. Team Editor utilizes the Team Reporter’s written notes to reflect the ideas of the team and visually presents them on the white board.  Team points are awarded based on written presentation, accurate content, and correct spelling and grammar.
2. Team Manager engages team on topic-focused discussions and depends on the Time Keeper to track discussion points in allotted time.
3. Team Reporter takes written record ofthe key points made and emphasizes important statements that reach a reflective level of thinking to be added to the Team Editor’s presentation.
4. Team Spokesperson uses the Team Editor’s notes and shares the team’s ideas with the class in an oral presentation.
5. Time Keeper manages the discussion time, factors sufficient time for the Team Editor to share Team Reporter notes, and affords the Team Spokesperson to deliver an optimal class presentation.

These five team roles repeatedly reinforce the value of data intake by documentation, communication (both internally within the team and externally), critical thinking, group problem solving, and the development of well-reasoned arguments.  Prefaced with the united mission to win the Game (as a team), students are opened to creativity in approach, learn the benefits of involvement, hear their own voice, listen to peers, and counter the vulnerable feelings of depending on team members with the responsibility of being depended on.  Daily oral and written class presentation provides a holistic team perspective that caters to both the visual and the audio learner.

Exposing the power of collaboration weakens the loneliness in adversity.  Our nation’s at-risk students are not alone– a fact many of them are not aware of.  The Game of Real Life is a student-centered innovative initiative translating life skills into a competitive and entertaining game module.  The fun and competitive 8-hour assimilation game module challenges team retention at the close of the 120hrs.  Each hour represents 1 year, post-high school.  Great for the kinesthetic learners, students are on the move from table to table, earning income, shopping and purchasing a car and a house, calculating budgets, make education decisions, and pay taxes every year.  Students are faced with ethical decisions like ‘Should I sell a house I know other students cannot afford if they are on other teams?’

Upon completion of The Game of Real Life, students will not only be better able to achieve their 10-year vision plan, or dreams, but at the very least, they will have learned real-world skills which will help them navigate through their post-High School life.  Game graduates are welcomed back as Game Team Leaders; confident mentors on a platform separate from home.  Demonstrating their gratitude with their time, Game Team Leaders learn the heart of education.  Teaching enriches learning.
Isn’t learning a joy in teaching?  Every answer leads to another question.  In the Game of Real life, does it matter who wins?
In real life, after winning, is the game over?

Amanda Hang Ton
Researcher and Game Instructor 2010 
Financial Mentors of America