4 strategies to foster collaboration in the classroom

Long gone are the days where desks are lined up in perfect rows, classrooms are silent, and teachers lecture for the entire class period. Today’s classrooms are placing more emphasis on collaborative learning—giving students opportunities to work together, learn from one another, and develop their communication skills.

Collaboration is not a skill students are born with; it’s one that needs to be practiced and developed. The good news is there are many collaboration strategies that can be built into your existing lessons! Let’s take a look at a few… 


This is probably the most common collaboration strategy in the classroom. It’s a simple, low-pressure way for students to practice sharing their ideas. Just as importantly, it also allows them to practice listening to the thoughts of their peers. Pose a question and provide students with some individual think time. Then, pair students up to share their answers. Once these conversations have come to a close, have students share with the class what their pair discussed. For some ideas about how to use think-pair-share with your students, read this article.  


This collaboration strategy assigns each student in a group a different portion of a larger topic that they research and become an “expert” in. Each student then presents their portion to the rest of the group. Just like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, each student’s piece is essential to the overall comprehension of the learning target. This means that every student is dependent on their classmates in order to succeed, and thus students are motivated to listen to and collaborate with one another! Research has shown that the jigsaw method is effective in promoting a positive learning experience and improved learning outcomes, especially in diverse classrooms. Check out this video for strategies on how to implement the jigsaw method into your lessons. 


Give every student the opportunity to act as both a speaker and an observer using the fishbowl method! Divide students into 2-4 groups and have everyone sit in a large circle. Have one group at a time sit in the middle of the circle (the “fishbowl”), and pose an open-ended question to the group. The students in the fishbowl will have a few moments to think individually prior to discussing the question out loud with their group. Meanwhile, the students outside the fishbowl should take notes and actively listen to the fishbowl group’s discussion. This would be a great strategy to review for a unit test or to discuss a novel students are reading in class, for example. For more ideas and variations on the fishbowl technique, head over to this article.

Gallery Walk

This strategy gets students moving around the classroom and working together in small groups to solve problems, answer discussion questions, or analyze images. Come up with 6-8 questions, and write each one on its own sheet of chart paper or on a section of a whiteboard.  In groups, students will rotate around to each question, discuss it as a group, and come up with a collaborative response to write on the chart paper. After the rotations are complete, hold a whole-class discussion where students can reflect on what they learned. For more gallery walk strategies, take a look here!

By Kim Laval, IXL Professional Learning Specialist