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This is one of a series of problems designed to develop learners' team working skills. Other tasks in the series can be found by going to this article.

What are you aiming to do?

For the task:

Learners must complete the task themselves but with support and advice from other members of the team.

As a team:

  • helping others to do things for themselves
  • responding to the needs of others - everybody helps everybody
  • explaining by telling how.

Getting started

This problem needs a team of four. A fifth person can act as an observer.

You need to arrange the desks and some props so that everyone can see everyone else but no one can see what anyone else is building. One possibility is for the designer to face the other three team members and make the design inside a box whilst team members try to recreate the design behind books or folders used as screens.

You will need four sets of counters (or similar) - up to 12 in each set.

Choose someone in the group to be the designer.
If there are five people choose a person to be the observer.
If you try this task more than once, team members should take turns at playing these roles.

Give one set of counters to the designer and one set to each of the other team members.

Tackling the Problem

The designer creates a counter design so that it is hidden from the rest of the team but as s/he makes the design, s/he explains what it looks like so that the rest of the team can make a copy of the same design.

Team members can ask questions about the design at any time and the designer answers in as helpful a way as possible.

When a team member thinks they have a completed design, they ask the designer to check. If it is right they can then aid the designer in answering questions. If they do not have the correct design the task continues.

Remember that all help has to be given without sight of the enquirer's design.

At any point the task can be brought to an end to discuss the success of the questioning and answering, and how it helped or hindered completion of the task.

Observer guidelines:

  • How well did the designer explain the process of creation? What words did they use that were really helpful?
  • How clear were the questions the team asked? Can you give an example of a good question?
  • How well were the questions answered? Can you give a good example?

Why do this problem?

This task encourages the development of team-building skills such as helping others to do things for themselves, responding to the needs of others, encouraging everbody to help each other and explaining to each other by telling how. This is one of a series of problems designed to develop learners' team-working skills. Other tasks in the series can be found by going to this article.

In addition learners will gain experience at using words to describe position and orientation.

Possible approach

A team has four or more members.

You may wish to use an adult as an observer.

Before starting this practical activity you might wish to ask each member of the group to draw their design, ready for when they act as designer for the rest of the team. You may wish to constrain the range of possibilities to manage the difficulty level of the task. For example:
  • The designer has up to 12 counters of different colours and arranges them in a row - each counter touching the one or two counters on either side of it. They might describe their pattern in terms of "Start with blue, place a blue counter to its right, now a yellow to its right" or "Start with a red, place a yellow below then a blue below that".
  • The designer can use two dimensional arrays. They might then describe their pattern in terms of "You need two blue and two yellow counters. Make a square where the blue counters are in the top right and bottom left and the yellow in the top left and bottom right".

The focus of attention for the teams is asking, explaining and helping each other. The completion of the task, whilst rewarding for all concerned, is not the main purpose of the activity.

If learners need some support with their positional language, a word list can be found here: wordpdf.

When teams have finished working on the task it is important that they spend time discussing in groups, and then as a whole class, how well they worked as a team. They can consider what they have learned from the experience and what they would do differently next time, particularly in terms of how to ask questions and answer them effectively. Your own observations, as well as those of observers, might inform the discussions.

Why not let us know how the children have got on with their group-working skills by clicking on the 'Submit a solution' link?

Key questions

Were there any questions that someone else asked that you found helpful?
How well did you listen to others in your group?
How easy was it to use the answers to the questions that were asked?
Was there an answer that you found particularly helpful?

Possible extension

Learners may like to try one of the other 'Explaining How' tasks. Other team-building tasks can be found by going to this article.

Possible support

Other team-building tasks can be found by going to this article.