Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rally Coach (Kagan Structure) with word problems

This morning I woke up and decided to sit, drink my coffee and catch up on reading some of my favorite blogs. Justin at Re-Learning to Teach had a post where he reflects on some of the very same issues I have with many of my 8th grade Pre-Algebra students. I started to leave him a comment but it was very long so instead I have decided to join Justin's "Whine and Cheese" party here on my blog. 

Most of my posts usually involve lessons I am using in my classroom or reflections on training I have completed. However, I have failed to reflect on the behaviors of many of my students and strategies I may take to improve their behavior. Many of my 8th grade Pre-Algebra students are exactly like Justin's students. The majority of my students do not complete homework when it is assigned and are not getting the practice they need to learn the skills that are being taught. We have been working on writing equations from word problems which is difficult for many of my students especially my second language learners. We used my most used graphic organizer, (see previous post HERE), and I decided to use a Rally Coach Kagan Structure in class to give them the practice they needed in a fun way.

I am fortunate that my school has been receiving Kagan training throughout the year as part of our School Improvement Plan. So far this year we have had three full day training sessions. The entire school has been using these structures with our classes and it has been a great experience. 

If you are not familiar with the Rally Coach Structure I will try my best to explain it to you. First of all, the students in our classrooms are in groups of four, sometimes a group of three if there is an odd number of students. They have shoulder partners and face partners for group work. See this post on Kagan Structures for an explanation of the group set-up.

For the Rally Coach, students work with their shoulder partners. The explanation given from the teacher is important because social and group expectations are a huge part of Kagan. First, you explain what you want the students to do and the behavioral expectations for the group. Next, you let the kids know what behaviors you don't want to see and lastly model the expected behaviors. 

Here is what a Rally Coach looks like:

  • One of the partners is given a question that has only one correct answer. That's easy to do in math. 
  • There is also only one piece of paper and one pencil for the pair. 
  • Partner A solves the problem explaining their reasoning to Partner B. 
  • Partner B coaches Partner A if they need help and also affirms the work they are doing correctly. 
  • If the answer is not correct, Partner B coaches Partner A to arrive at the correct answer. 
  • Once they agree on the answer, the teacher checks it, and gives positive affirmations to the students or suggestions on what to change.
  • When the pair has the correct answer the teacher hands a new problem to Partner B. 
  • The students switch roles and repeat the process.
That was a very very short explanation of what we learned in one of our sessions.

 I knew the majority of the kids wouldn't do the homework so I took the homework questions and placed each question on different sheets of colored paper. I needed to have 16 copies of each question, one for each of the pairs in my room. The pairs were given only one whiteboard and marker and the partner who was doing the problem was the only one who could write on the whiteboard. When the students agreed on the answer they raised the whiteboard in the air, I quickly checked it and handed the next question to that pair. The different colored paper made it easy for me to keep track of what question I should give them next. I had a total of 10 questions and only a couple of pairs were able to answer all of the question in a 45 minute period. 

I am here to tell you I was amazed at how the kids behaved and stayed on task. All but one of my 100 Pre-Algebra students were actively involved. The one student just drew basketball courts when it was his turn. Another day, another story. Best of all, they all had the practice that I wanted them to have and they didn't have homework. Everyone was happy:)

I really like how we teach social skills along with the math that we do. I have seen an improvement in how the kids are reacting to each other in class. They are learning how to interact with each other in a positive way, how to give and receive affirmations and are learning a little more patience.

It was a fast paced period, good thing I wore my gym shoes that day. I will definitely use this strategy again. Let me know if you try this and how it works. 

Til next time,

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