Sample Lesson Plan

Generally based on Putnam, 1997.

Step 1: Select A Lesson 

Subject Area: Social Studies. Groups must design a city on a landscape board using various symbols to denote the apartments, factories, etc. They must justify the placements on a sheet of paper. The groups will then make a class demonstration of the landscape, with the other groups critically analyzing the placements. 

Grade Level: Middle School 

Step 2: Make Pre-Instructional Decisions

Lesson Summary: Students manipulate symbols to learn the importance of location, accessibility, and other variables in the planning of a large city. Students critically evaluate both their placement of all the elements and the locations chosen by other groups. 

Academic Objective: The academic objective is for students to gain expertise in importance of location, accessibility, and other variables in planning a large city. The social skill objective is for students to gain expertise in giving help and encouragement to groupmates. 


-Assignment summary 

-Key for symbols on a sheet 

-Laminated, reusable landscape showing coastline, river, mountains, lake, forest, and island 

-Overhead Projection pens 

-One sheet of paper for justification 


Time required: About two hours. 

Room arrangement: Each group has one table. 

Group Size: 4 

Assignment to groups: Randomly assign students to groups to ensure heterogeneity. If for example, there are twenty-four students in the class, the teacher would have the students count off by six. All the “1s” make up one group, the “2s” make up another group, and so forth. 


1. Reader/Questioner-To read all the materials and check for understanding within the group. 

2. Drawer-To draw symbols on landscape. 

3. Encourager/Praiser/Observer-To praise contributions and encourage good work from all group members; records the actions of each group member on an observation sheet while the group is working. 

4. Recorder-To write down justification for placement of city facilities. 

Each member is randomly assigned a role. 

Step 3: Explaining Task and cooperative Goal Structure 

Instructional Task (Part 1)
Reaching consensus is important to all placements. The teacher should make sure that all the students understand that they will be held accountable for understanding their justifications for their placements of the buildings, roads, etc. Explain that the teacher will randomly select two students out of the group to make the class presentation explaining placements and their justifications, so all must understand why and be able to explain the decisions of the group. 

Criteria for success:
All group members must be able to explain the solution and why they chose these placements. The students may be able to earn bonus points from this activity. There may be more than one way of arranging good strategic placements. The group will receive two bonus points for each additional strategy it finds.

Positive Interdependence:
Students must all agree on all placements of buildings and facilities. Each student is assigned a group role. Groups receive only one each of: landscape, key, explanation of assignment, limited color markers, and produce only one sheet of justifications for placements. 

Individual Accountability:
Each member must be able to explain and justify to the class all placements on their landscape. They sign the justification sheet to signify their understanding of and agreement with all placements. 

Intergroup Cooperation: The groups compare their results when they are done. The groups have to identify at least two different placement strategies. 

Expected behaviors:
*All group members explain step-by-step how they placed the roads, building, bridges, etc. 

*Group members ask for help when they do not understand how to solve a problem. 

*Group members encourage each other to participate by providing clear and accurate explanations and help. 

To clarify the skill of encouraging participation, present a T-Chart and have students practice the skill several times before the lesson begins. 

Step 4: Monitoring and Intervening 

While the students are working, systematically observe each group’s taskwork (efforts to find the best placements on their landscape) and teamwork (efforts to work together effectively). Occasionally, at random, the teacher selects a student to explain one of the answers. Often, turn students’ questions back to the group to solve, or ask students to check with a neighboring group. 

Accept a question from a group only when all the group members have the same question. Intervene in each group to ask for a verbal justification for a placement. Listen and praise proper social skill use. When an opportunity to use a skill is passed by, re-explain the proper way of praising or encouraging. 

Academic Task (Part 2)

The task is to present to the class the landscape and the justification for the placements. Two students are randomly selected from each group to make the presentation. After each presentation all other groups are allowed tow minutes to discuss and analyze the placements pros and cons. Each group must come up with three questions for the group that is presenting. To ask questions randomly call on students from different groups to pose question. Have the question-askers stand up. For example, a group might ask why a dump was placed at the foot of the mountains far out of town when that would increase fuel costs and pollution from diesel exhaust. The presenting group is allowed 30 seconds to prepare the answer. Then a student from the presenting group makes the explanation and justification. Continue this procedure until all groups have presented. 

Step 5: Assessing and Processing 

Evaluate group cooperative skills using the student checklist. To evaluate the presentations, make up a chart to keep track of group bonus points. For instance, each time a group asks a significant question of the presenting group, give that group one bonus point. Any insignificant questions receive no bonus points. To structure individual accountability a weekly individual test is given. Each student will have to answer a questionnaire about the placement of the buildings in a town. 

Small Group Processing: 
At the end of the lesson, the observers show the data on the observation sheet to their group. The group analyzes the data to: 

  • Determine how effectively they worked together. Each group can record the observation data on a chart to track over time members’ improvement in working together effectively. 
  • Set an improvement goal for what they could do better next time. 

Whole class processing: 

Lead a discussion on how well the groups worked together. The teacher has to model good processing techniques by sticking close to actual observations and stressing positive behaviors. 

Celebrating: The groups celebrate their hard work and success.


           Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6 (1), 65-78.