Collaborative work with my 7th graders

Hi. So Thursdays I have a team of 10 7th graders that I work with. We are creating a project together and I find it hard to have them collaborate. Today, I even had them do a little team building exercise called the "Peanut Butter Pit (of Doom)" and I found two of my most vocal students wanted to be "leaders" though no leaders are required on the exercise. I had to say to them, "there is no 'I' in team" and I felt like a grandma saying that to them. Sure enough, Rezan and Myesha took the lead role in the exercise and I tried my best to moderate. It is kind of difficult to try and get the other students engaged when they allow Rezan and Myesha to take leader roles.

At one point I was asking the students their opinion on the design for our building ( a large mixed use building--a mall, gym, pool, rec center, skate park) and tried to ask them how we could divide the large building up into smaller buildings. As usual, the leader Rezan kept speaking up about how he thought it would be more convenient to keep it as one large building. I was getting a bit frustrated, because he kept talking and gave no one else a chance to speak up. So I said, "okay, so we know how Rezan feels about the building design. What are some other people's thoughts on what to do." I thought that would give some one else time to speak, but NO Rezan started to speak again. I was thinking...what? Are you kidding me? Sigh. It's hard to keep a project collaborative with equal participation all the time.

I ended up having the students sketch out their ideas on how to divide the buildings up in their sketch books privately for 15 minutes. That way they could work independently and not be influenced by others. When the time was up. We went around in a circle to show every one's drawings and then talk about each one for about 2-3 minutes. Afterwards we hung up the drawings on the wall and talked about the strengths of each ideas. we had a good discussion going and next week we are going to try and combine some of those ideas. So lets hope this collaboration works!

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