Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kagan Structures- Creating your groups (teams)

     Last year, as part of our school improvement plan, all the teachers in my building participated in three professional development days with a certified Kagan instructor. We will finish the last two training sessions on cooperative learning this coming school year. If you ever have the opportunity to go to a training do it. It's amazing and so much more than just cooperative learning groups. The entire training is hands on and you participate as a student would in your class. You can walk into your classroom the next day and use structures with the kids immediately. Go to Kagan online to get more information.

     The first thing I needed to do last year was to set up my groups. At the beginning of the year I started with random groups, which was fine for the first couple of weeks, but this year I am going to start immediately with heterogeneous groups. Our students take the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test three times during the year. I will have access to their spring MAP test scores from last year that will help me create the groups. You can use any test that you want, as the year went on I used pre-tests and formative and summative assessments as well.

     Kagan believes that groups of four students is optimal. Each group should have two boys and two girls. This isn't always possible so I do as many as I can and then make all boy or all girl teams. If there is an odd number of students in the class then there will be a group of five or sometimes two groups of three with the remaining groups having four students. I did vary this last year with a couple of students that were boys. They were non-stop off task students when with another boy so they were placed in groups of all girls. Those girls kept them in line and they definitely had better behavior to impress the ladies. (This was not a Kagan suggestion. Just something that worked for me.)

     To create my groups I needed my class rosters, the list with student MAP scores, a pile of index cards and colored pencils that match the colors of the groups.

  • On the top of the index card I placed the students name and their MAP math and reading score and if they were a second language learner. With my second language learners I place another student who speaks the same language if possible.
  • Next, I placed all of the index cards in order according to math MAP scores from highest to lowest. The I divided the index cards into 4 groups, HIGH, HIGH MEDIUM, LOW MEDIUM and LOW scores. 
  • Each group has one of each level student. Take a card from each of the groups of index cards and you have your teams.
  • On each index card I use a colored pencil to mark the team the students are placed in. In my classroom I have different colored stars above each of the teams, yellow, green, red, purple, pink, orange, blue and salmon. By placing the colors on the index cards I can make sure that when I change groups the students aren't place with the same peers again.
  • When placing the students in the groups you have them seated like this:                                                                    
                                      LOW MEDIUM           LOW
                                      HIGH                            HIGH MEDIUM
  •  The high student next to the low medium can help that student when they work as shoulder partners and the high medium can help the low student in their understanding. Also having students with similar levels across from each other helps them to feel comfortable with students who are closer to their levels when working as face partners. I always had these students sitting next to each other but staggered the arrangements in the groups so they couldn't figure out who was the low or high one in each team. Groups should be changed about every six weeks.
     There are desks not tables in my room which works out very well. When they take assessments I have them move to rows. We practice this the first week of school. I also noticed when I lecture they didn't pay attention so now when I lecture I have them facing forward and not in groups. (I don't lecture too much but when I do this seems to work for my kids.) It will be interesting having students this year who know the Kagan structures and expectations. I can't wait to see how much better there participation and understanding is.
     On a side note, one of the claims of Kagan is that their structures improve learning for all students because of the level of engagement involved. Last year my school had the highest gains of all eight middle schools in the district on MAP scores. Now I am here to tell you my school is always right in the middle. We have a 65% poverty rate with the majority of our students who are second language learners (which several of the other schools do not), and we never have the highest gains. The only thing we did differently was this training and all the teachers used these structures in their classrooms. Hmmmm... very interesting. 

To buy this book go to :
 Kagan Cooperative Learning on Kagan website
or Kagan Cooperative learning on Amazon.

  Chapter 7 of Kagan Cooperative Learning goes into great detail as to how form groups. 

 Disclaimer: I am not a certified Kagan instructor. All of the information given are my thoughts and reflections of the training I attended.

Til next time,

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