Summer is gone...
We are almost a whole month into the new school year and I am excited about my Spanish 2 classes. My district invested in professional development this summer and offered some training in the Kagan model for cooperative learning. I have found this model to be very easy to implement in the classroom. I have had group settings for the past 3 years in my classroom but the way Kagan structures work in getting everyone in a group involved has been a great addition to my classroom management skills. Some of the most useful structures that I have found from the Kagan method which I am currently using in the classroom are:
When a group of students are seating together, there needs to be a way to assign tasks and responsibilities within that group. I used to ask volunteers to help pass and gather materials. I used to rely on students who liked getting out of their seats. Sometimes it was frustrating to not have any volunteers and have non enthusiastic students do the work. It was time consuming. With my management mats, I just call a number and the student knows they have a task to complete. No questions asked and they do it more willingly.
Positive Team Work & Class Management
As simple as it sounds, creating a positive classroom environment has to be intentional, planned, and implemented accordingly. Kagan materials do an excellent job in providing activities for students to get to know each other and feel they are part of something bigger and better. I love the non academic for fun concept of short activities that students engage in to feel welcome in the classroom. It makes them feel that the are valued in the classroom and that their learning is important to others.
As a language teacher, my students need to spend a lot of time practicing the language and interacting with others in non-threatening and comfortable ways. Kagan training reminded me that learning happens when students are the ones doing the work, not me being the one that takes the stage and magically transfers knowledge to students by just talking.
Even though I have been a teacher for over 20 years, I realize how easy it is to take teaching for granted and feeling that my experience is good enough to do my best in the classroom. Nope, not true.... a fallacy. Complacency in the classroom starts with me. When I stop challenging myself and continue to do things the same way over and over and pretend that time in the classroom equals best practices, I deprive my self and my students from engaging and rewarding learning experiences.
If you have not had a chance to explore the Kagan compilation of best practices and cooperative learning suggestions, I highly recommend that you take a look at it and see if this is something you can use in the classroom.