Although I had some success incorporating Kagan into my classroom mid-year, the real strengths are showing this year now that I've had a summer to think it over, truly dive into my lesson plans and modify them to be Kagan-based at least a few times each class, and set up my classroom both physically and with expectations/procedures. Here are a couple of examples of activities that we've done:
Objective: Read an article in Spanish.
- Kagan Structure: Rally Coach
- How it worked: Students worked in pairs. Each pair had one copy of the article. Partner A pointed to where they were reading and translated the sentence, asking for help from Partner B as needed. Partner B followed along and listened. When Partner A finished the sentence, they Praised (I have Praise Words in Spanish on my walls) or coached (helped make corrections, then praise). Students traded roles after each sentence.
- What I liked about it: At a glance, I could see that almost all students were engaged. They were leaning in toward one another, both looking at the same page, as one student was pointing and reading. They were asking one another questions and helping each other. No one was frustrated or embarrassed and it was easy to spot those who checked out on occasion and then redirect them.
Objective: Write sentences in Spanish.
- Kagan Structure: Jot Thoughts
- How it worked: Up to this point, students had explored cognates, worked on memorizing some common classroom verbs, and taken notes on classroom items. The day before, students did an activity where they translated sentences I drew out of a bag (I drew an animal cognate as the subject, one of the verbs, and a classroom object resulting in often silly sentences like "The elephant sits on the stapler). Having had this modeled for them, they were to create their own sentences using the animal cognates sheet and their classroom verbs and objects notes. Each group had a stack of small paper squares. They were to take a paper square and write one sentence on it using the above format, lay it out on their desk, read it to their group, and then repeat. The goal was to cover as much of their desks as possible with little squares. I walked around with my Spanish stamp and stamped correct sentences or coached on how students could fix a sentence to make it correct. I made sure everyone had at least one stamped sentence. Then, students were to take their notebooks around to different groups and copy one correct sentence for each of the verbs in their notebook.
- What I liked about it: Everyone was working on sentences. In fact, they enjoyed creating the sentences so much that they didn't want to go get the notes when it was time - they begged me to let them keep writing sentences! I couldn't believe how a simple structure could turn a would-be boring activity into something the kids didn't want to stop doing. It was one of those days it felt like the heavens opened and the teaching angels came down to my classroom singing their praise chorus for the students as they worked. Students were giggling as they made up silly sentences and others were satisfied that their sentences were perfectly practical and made sense. Everyone was engaged and everyone got correct comprehensible input when it was time to read one another's sentences. This was an excellent example of positive interdependence as students asked each other questions as they worked and relied on one another to get all of the sentences in their notebook. I will definitely be doing this activity again!
If you are interested in Kagan Cooperative Learning, I highly recommend starting with their book and the Kagan Structures for Engagement Smart Card. I also prepared a one-page handout to share with other teachers who are new to the method. I'll be attending the Kagan 4-day workshop in February and cannot wait to learn more!