Collaboration Guidebook - 6-9 (Middle Years) Sun West

Collaboration Middle Years 6-9


Collaboration is increasingly mentioned as an important educational outcome and most models of 21st century education include collaboration as a key skill. The value of collaboration has been assumed for many years, and over the past two decades we have seen leading businesses and organizations move to facilitate team building and team-based work. The ability to work effectively with others has become a critically important skill for career and life success. 

Here is what we know about collaboration and collaborative learning:

  1. Emphasis on collaboration remains traditional, reflecting older models of interaction
  2. Use of technology does not always boost collaborative learning or improved digital literacy
  3. Students learn best from a mix of individual and group-based learning experiences  
  4. Collaboration can enhance the development of critical thinking skills
  5. Four categories of assessment exist for evaluating collaboration as a process and outcome for both groups and individuals
  6. Collaborative problem solving is an area to watch with new assessments

 Collaboration. P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Web. May 7, 2018

 Why it’s important: Students of the digital age are social by nature. They text, post, update, share, chat, and constantly co-create in technological environments with each other. When they are unable to do this in school, they become disengaged and unattached to their learning. Connection and collaboration with others are essential not only to their learning but their mental and emotional health. It is a skill that educators must exercise with them regularly, and understanding Collaboration Fluency will assist with this.

Watanabe-Crockett, Lee. The Critical 21st Century Skills Every Student Needs and Why. Global Digital Citizen Foundation. Aug 2 2016. Web May 6, 2018

Explicit Teaching

To be able to learn and grow in 21st Century Competency understanding, it is important to teach each skill and let students experience what each skill looks like as well as how you can grow in each area. Caution: by simply saying the word "communication or collaboration...etc" students may not get a full understanding of each skill. Explicitly teaching and utilizing skills in different ways is what will ultimately promote deep understanding and growth in 21st Century Competencies.

Timeline Suggestions for Explicit Teaching

The document below provides a year plan to teach each of the 21st century skills. It is beneficial to have an explicit teaching plan to ensure each skill is taught; however skills should also be reinforced as much as possible throughout class time. 

21st Century Skills Year Plan

Lesson Plans


Build Team Strengths

Evaluate the Team

Find solutions

Integration of Skills

Intentional integration of 21st Century Competency language in all day-to-day activities supports the development of routine reflection, skill use, and growth in support of curricular knowledge acquisition. 


If we do not intentionally integrate 21st Century Competency connections into our learning environments, it is easy to forget about them. As the language becomes routine, growth in skills can and should be explored regularly. Ultimately the 21st Century Competencies are the skills needed to be successful in all day-to-day activities as well as future career opportunities. By being intentional in integrating the language and skill use in all aspects of learning, understanding of the skills can be applied and reflected upon to look for areas of potential growth and application.

Once skills have been explicitly taught, integration of 21st Century Competencies can be achieved by connecting skills to all curricular areas, participating in pre-and post reflections (allowing students to predict which skills will be needed and subsequently which skills need to be worked on) and the use of 21st Century Competency rubrics to track growth. 

Example: by using learner profile data, students can reflect on which skills they need to employ for a particular activity and based on this information, choose group members that have strengths or challenges in those skill areas.


When integrating 21 Century Competency language in all areas of learning consider the following curricular connected resources. 

As you use similar resources in your own learning environment, how can you relate them back to growth and understanding of the 21 Century Competencies?


In Math

Math Games to teach Collaboration

Teachable moments

Whenever a question, situation, comment or activity that involves a connection to a 21 Century Competency arises, take a moment to talk to students about it. Discussing skills, how they integrate into everything you do in life makes the reflection on the importance of skills a habit. This habit will instill a growth mindset around developing skills to their fullest potential. Teachable moments can be as short as 20 seconds. Make it your habit and it will become theirs!

Tracking Growth

When considering 21st Century Competency application, it is essential for both the teacher and the student to track growth. There is clear potential for growth in skill use throughout our lives. To ensure growth and understanding of application is taking place, we can easily track progression using rubrics, checklists, and self-assessments.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessments of 21st Century Competencies include anecdotal documentation, self-assessments and rubric check-ins. These formative assessments provide snapshots of growth throughout the learning process and allow goal setting to take place.

See below for Self-Reflection and Goal setting documents:

Download: CollaborationSelfReflection_wBngVOy.docx

Download: CollaborationGoalSetting_ESiKoqG.docx

Assessing Growth

Reflection Documents

Exemplar Rubrics

Either share the rubric with your students, or just share the categories and come up with a rubric that is personalized for your class. Post the rubric somewhere that will ensure it is referred to often.

Collaboration 6-9
Capture_0bZxnxq.PNGCollaboration 6-9

Collaboration 6-9

Collaboration Rubric Middle Years
Collaboration Rubric Middle YearsCollaboration Rubric Middle Years

Collaboration Rubric Middle Years

Collaboration Rubric Middle Years

Co-creating Rubrics

Exemplar rubrics have been developed for K-5, 6-9 and 10-12. To connect fully with students in their understanding of skill application and growth, a recommendation would be to re-write the rubric with the students to include their understanding of the skill, goals for integration in learning and commitment to the skill development.


Setting the Norms for Group Work and Collaboration.  This website has posters, and various student inventories and assessments for self-reflection and group reflection. 

Sun West Resource Bank Collaboration Resources            

Print based

Sun West Original Print Based Collaboration Guidebook

Collaboration Fluency Quickstart Skills Guide - Login to the Global Digital Citizen Foundation to download the guide.  



Educational Articles

Web Sites

Thinking Collaborative - This website has posters and various student inventories and assessments for self-reflection and group reflection.
Critical Thinking and Collaboration Activities - A sample of the many different types of activities to build a collaborative classroom culture.  

Edward des Bono’s- Six Thinking Hats is a simple, effective parallel thinking process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. A powerful collaboration tool set, which once learned can be applied immediately! You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic "thinking hat." By mentally wearing and switching "hats," you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.  Many resources are already created for this strategy.  Do a quick google search and many already made activities are ready for you.  For example:

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