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Wants versus Needs, Working in Teams

Context for this Lesson


Topic: Social Skills, Group Work and Compromise

Focus Questions: How can we effectively and respectfully work together? When working in groups, how do we make sure everyone’s voice is heard? What are ways we can effectively compromise?

Goals: To identify problem-solving skills we can use when working in groups (tribes). To identify ways we can ensure everyone’s voice is heard within groups. To produce a visual reminder of at least on strategy they can refer to when working in groups.


Introduction: “Today we are going to use our imaginations to go on an adventure. First we need to warm-up our imaginations so we can make sure everyone is ready to pretend. We all need to rub our hands together and then place them our heads to make sure our imaginations are warmed-up. GREAT. We are going to imagine that our class has been chosen to go live on a deserted island for one week. The class will be split into their tribes and each tribe will become an adventurer group about to get on a boat to their own island where they’ll live together for one week in the outdoors. These islands were just discovered so there is nothing there but beaches and small forests. Each tribe will be responsible for mapping out their island. In order to get ready for our trips we need to make a list of things we might want and need to bring.”

Poster Dialogue

Bring out two posters/large pieces of paper or draw a line to divide the chalk board in half. Label one side Needs and the other Wants. Ask the students if anyone can give us a definition for what a need is, repeat and ask the same for what a want is. “Now we are going to make a list of everything we might want to bring with us to our islands, but since we may not be able to pack everything we are going to put things on two lists, one a list for things we need and another is a list for things we want. I want everyone to try to add at least one idea to each list and would like to see how many things we can think of to fit unto each of these lists. Ready-let’s begin.” Give a one-minute warning before ending the activity, then have students sit to look at the lists.


Narrative Pantomime

Have the students pantomime packing up everything on their lists to load unto the their boats, have them climb aboard. Extend narrative pantomime on this by having students put on life vest, find things to do on this long journey to entertain themselves, etc. Then announce to the class that you have hit shallower water near the island and will have to move unto smaller boats. Because the small boats they are taking to the island are VERY tiny they will only be able to take five things off their lists. “Now there is a piece of paper at each of your tribe tables. As a group I need you to decide and write down which five things your group will be taking to the island for the week.”

*Note-If at any point a group becomes unable to reach conclusions, pause the whole class to do some reflections and try to group problem solve since that’s the ultimate goal. Once groups have finished deciding have them pantomime moving their items unto the smaller boat, telling the rest of the class what they are taking.

Possible Sidecoaching: "Remember to consider what you may want versus what you will need. Let’s make sure everyone in out tribe is able to have a say. How can ensure everyone in our groups has what they need for the week?" 

Transition: Have students climb aboard the smaller boat and pretend to start moving towards the island. “Now that we packed our boats full of things we need to go on our adventure to the deserted island, I want use this time on the boats to think about some other things we need on our adventure.”

Vote From Your Seat

“If we’re going to live alone on a deserted island with our tribes for a week and make sure we get all the mapping done for our island, we need to make sure we can work well as a group to make decisions. Right now we are going to use our bodies to respond to some questions I have for you. This is a silent activity-you are going to show your answer by standing if your answer is yes and sitting if your answer is no. Thumbs up if you understand.” Standing=Yes Sitting=No


  • I feel my tribe members listened to me when we were packing our boat.
  • I feel like I did a good job listening to my tribemates when we were packing our boat.
  • I think our tribe members were able to compromise when packing our boat.
  • I think everyone in our tribe was satisfied with what ended up being in our boat.

Go through voting for all the questions then move to reflecting with the whole group based on what the students said: "What were some ways/are some ways we can make sure everyone is heard when we work together? What can we do to help create compromises when working in groups?"

“Excellent-Now I am going to give everyone an index card and on it I want you to take the next three minutes to write and draw one thing YOU can do to help your group work together that your can take to the island as a reminder.” Give students a one minute warning, announcing the boat is almost on the island. Have the students finish leave their cards at their seats and climb off their boats describing what they see and unpacking the boats to set up camp. Then finally have them settle into their camps to get a good night’s sleep before they begin their work the next day. (As they lay down, announce that the imaginary adventure is over and ask them to return to their seats.)


Tell me one thing you remember from today’s class.

Hold up your fingers to show me on a scale of 1-5 how we think we did in respecting ourselves, our space and our work today. 1 means we have a lot of things to work on and 5 means we did excellent and almost never needed a reminder to be respectful.