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Can We Do This Longer?

Two Fridays ago, I sprung a new activity on my students.

Instead of the usual bellwork they had been completing each day…answering comprehension questions through a responder and analyzing the answers, they had to participate in Fan-n-Pick, a Kagan structure.

What is Kagan, you ask?

It’s a program of cooperative learning structures that require students to interact with each other while using curriculum.  It is also completely research-based.

Studies show that people learn best when working together.  The more a person interacts with the curriculum, the higher the learning gains.

The goal of the Kagan structures is to engage as many students as possible, simultaneously, so there’s little wasted time.

Shy students cannot hide.

Avoiders cannot hide.

Everyone participates.

These structures build team and class cohesiveness as positive feedback is immediately given.

Weaker students are purposely paired with stronger students, and learning goes up because of the coaching that happens between them.

Students usually sigh, roll their eyes, and declare themselves too tired to participate.

That’s where teacher buy-in comes into play.  If a teacher is excited (or doing one heck of an acting job to fake it), then students will embrace the activities too.

So…back to the Kagan structure I used a couple of weeks ago (and have been meaning to blog about).

I’ve been using Friday bellwork to work on figurative language.  It’s a large unit in itself and one that I never have time to dedicate a solid two weeks for before FCAT.  Hence my squeezing it in on Fridays.

I work on each device for two Fridays in a row.  We’ll hit them harder in April right before FCAT.

We were working on idioms a couple of weeks ago, and I’d happened on the Fan-n-Pick cards I had used last year.

The cards you’ll see below came from one of these books (both have the pages you can copy onto whatever paper you want…I use stiffer card stock…with different sayings…not to mention a TON of other AMAZING activities and templates…cannot recommend them highly enough)…

Here are the instructions I posted on the SmartBoard…

I demonstrated, using one table as an example.

First, Student 1 holds up the cards…

Next, Student 2 picks a card and reads the question to Student 3…

Student 3 answers, getting hints from Student 2 if need be, and Student 4 repeats the answer.

Students rotate the handful of cards one person over so everyone has a new role with the next round, and play continues in this way until time is called.

I’m going to be honest with you.

Each of my classes grumbled.

Some students assumed they knew what the idioms meant.

Boy, were they surprised!

I had a LOT of cards!  Each table must have had 10-15 of them.  That’s a lot of idioms!

I walked around and monitored the tables to ensure that 1) They were participating…correctly and 2) They were sincerely trying.

Then the magic happened.

It’s the “Cooperative Learning” magic where giggles are exchanged as light bulbs turn on in their minds.

They actually started having fun as they learned new sayings.

In one of my classes, I heard a young lady say, “I’m going to use some of these.”

I wanted to do a fist pump!  🙂

The ultimate validation came when one of my students, who has complained since Day 1 about the amount of work I require my classes to do, asked, “Can we do this longer?” when the timer went off.

It wasn’t because he didn’t want to do the next round of work I had planned.

It was because he was really learning.

I was privileged to listen in as the following happened…

He had been asked to define the idiom, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

He struggles with language that isn’t literal (most kids do).

His teammates were coaching him, without giving him the answer.

Finally, he said, “Well, you know.  You let ratchet girls sleep.”

You see, he’d associated “dogs” with ugly (the teen-speak is “ratchet”) girls.

His teammates praised him loudly (even though it wasn’t quite the correct definition) and told him that was an interesting way to put it.

THIS was huge, let me tell you!

I’m saving the cards for a time when we revisit idioms.  I may have different tables use different sets of figurative language cards.  The possibilities are endless.

If you don’t use Kagan in your room, I highly encourage you to do some research.  My school district has invested heavily into this program, and I understand why.  It’s the simple conversations of turning to your partner and asking about your favorite part of a story that can help a student develop socially and academically…accepted and validated by their peers.

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