Cooperative Learning, Getting Started

by Susan S. Ellis and Susan F. Whalen (Scholastic, 1990. ISBN 0-590-49092-3.) Professional Book.
This review by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


Noting that children's leisure time today seldom involves the kind of cooperation that the old neighborhood games of the past provided, having given way to television, computer games and supervised sports, the authors stress the need for teaching social skills and cooperation within the classroom. If you think that by setting up small group activities in your classroom, you are using cooperative learning, you really need to read this book. Although whole language and skills are often in direct opposition, Whalen and Ellis's skills list would facilitate learning in any whole language classroom. They are:

"Basic Group Skills:

  • getting into your group quietly and quickly
  • bringing necessary materials with you
  • staying with your group until the task is done
  • talking in quiet voices
  • listening to your partner(s)
  • calling your partner(s) by name
  • knowing your task(s)

Function Skills:

  • taking turns
  • contributing your ideas
  • supporting your point with evidence
  • asking for help when you need it
  • encouraging others to contribute
  • complimenting others' contributions
  • checking for understanding
  • keeping the group focused on the task

Higher-Order Thinking Skills:

  • providing clarification
  • building on another's ideas
  • paraphrasing another's idea to show you understand it
  • analyzing your group's process
  • coming to consensus
  • synthesizing several ideas
  • evaluating the group's work
  • criticizing an idea, but not the person who presented it."