In Ontario’s elementary schools, we assess six Learning Skills. They are:

  • Responsibility
  • Organization
  • Independent Work
  • Collaboration
  • Initiative
  • Self-Regulation

Over six posts, I want to lay out how I plan to teach and assess and each of these skills this upcoming year with my grade 5s.

Here are the earlier posts on Responsibility, Organization and Independent.

Today, we discuss Collaboration.


I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan. Check out her amazing demo for “Blank Space.” Clearly, she is an amazing pop songwriter, one of the best of her generation, and maybe of all-time.

The final version of “Blank Space” is quite a leap from Taylor’s original performance. The core of the song is there, but with help from her collaborators, Taylor has created something much greater.

Here are what the final credits for “Blank Space” look like:

  • Taylor Swift — vocals, writer, background vocals, shouts
  • Max Martin — producer, writer, keyboards, programming
  • Shellback — producer, writer, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, music programming, shouts, stomps
  • Michael Ilbert — recording
  • Sam Holland — recording
  • Cory Bice — recording assistant
  • Serban Ghenea — mixing
  • John Hanes — mixing engineer
  • Tom Coyne — mastering

Pop music, like virtually every creative enterprise going, is a collaborative enterprise: A group of skilled people come together, each sharing his or her own talents and gifts towards the common purpose of creation. Taylor is the main force, but the project wouldn’t be what it is without the rest of the team.

One of the challenges grade 5 students sometimes face when working collaboratively is the idea that all members need to contribute an “equal amount.” As the Taylor example above illustrates, this is not how collaboration works. Each creative endeavor requires different skills and as such, what and how much each person contributes will change from project to project.

One thing I like to do is have students take on different roles within a team for each project (I have written about this in the past).

It’s also important to discuss the value of being “support player” for certain tasks, while offering opportunities for all students to also take on leadership/starring roles if they aspire to them.

One of the challenges a teacher has is deciding whether to allow the students to choose their own groups or choose for them (or something in between). I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule here, yet. Depends on the class and the project.

A student who is a successful collaborator is one who is respectful, attentive, focused, friendly and kind. But this student also understands that we all have different strengths and weaknesses and knows that the work itself is more important than who did what.

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