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Teacher & Training Tips

Changing Base Teams

Dr. Rick DuVall

To cite this article: DuVall, R. Changing Base Teams, San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #59. www.KaganOnline.com

“Some of our students have been begging us to not change their teams. Is it really that important that we change teams every six weeks?” This is a question a couple of teachers with whom I was working recently asked me.

Dr. Kagan reminds us that there are three important reasons to change teams:

  1. We want to provide opportunities for students to transfer their teamwork skills to new social contexts. As we expose students to different groupings, we are helping provide those students with opportunities to develop social and life skills that they can transfer to other situations throughout their lives.
  2. We want to help refine and expand students’ abilities to function well given diverse team dynamics. As students move from base team to base team about every six weeks in our classrooms, students are provided with exposure to working with great friends, as well as with people with whom they share different team dynamics.
  3. When we have a student with whom it is a challenge for others to work, we want to ensure that the challenging student’s three teammates have an opportunity for more positive team experiences. Additionally, we want to help increase that challenging student’s teamwork skills; changing teams every six weeks increases the probability that the student will acquire those much-needed skills.

As I worked with those teachers, it became apparent to me that their question stemmed from a fear that the students’ next teams might not work as well as the current teams were working. Of course, this is a very legitimate fear. Change is nearly always a little scary, especially when things are currently going well. I reminded the teachers that it is essential that we bring closure to our current teams before moving students into new teams. Closure means finality; therefore, we have to help students let go of what is currently happening. In other words, as we move students into new teams, we must honor the transition away from what’s ending to what is about to begin.

The ritual of team closure can help all students more joyfully move into their new teams, unencumbered by their yearning to be with their familiar teammates.

I recommend creating a closure ritual with teams before they separate. A powerful Kagan Structure for active engagement that can be utilized during this time is Simultaneous RoundTable. Have students create “Teammate Appreciation” cards by having each student fold a colorful piece of construction paper or card stock in half, much like a greeting card. Have them write “For (their own name)” on the cover, and give each student a minute or two to decorate the cover. Simultaneously, have all teammates pass their cards to the next team member. After reading the name of the person whose card they now have, instruct students to open the card to the second page and write a note of gratitude to their teammate. You might provide a sentence starter or gambit for the students, such as “Thank you for …” or “I appreciate how you…”. Repeat this process two more times, with the cards being passed to subsequent teammates, and every team member writing a note of gratitude to every other team member. When teammates finish the Simultaneous RoundTable, have students stand and read the statements of gratitude on their own cards. Invite students to do their team cheers and team handshakes one final time.

This ritual of team closure can help all students more joyfully move into their new teams, unencumbered by their yearning to be with their familiar teammates. After this closure activity, they are usually more willing to move into new teams, with the expectation of creating new bonds with their new teammates.


Related Resource

Laurie Kagan, Miguel Kagan, & Dr. Spencer Kagan (All Grades)
When students have the desire and ability to work together as a team, something magical happens—Together Everyone Achieves More! Students like working together, academic achievement goes up, and discipline problems become a thing of the past. Includes step-by-step instructions, hints, variations, over 100 teambuilding activities and ready-to-use blackline masters for each of 14 favorite teambuilding structures like: Fan-N-Pick, Team Interview, and Placemat Consensus. Promote a positive class and team atmosphere in your classroom, and watch as your students work together in harmony. 232 pages. Click to Learn More.