April 1

Kagan Cooperative Learning

In the summer holidays I attended a conference and was lucky to attend 3 workshops run by Laurie and Spencer Kagan. The Kagan’s have revolutionised the idea of Cooperative Learning, Something I believed I was doing well, until their workshops!

Yes I was using cooperative learning strategies to some extent, in a random manner. ‘ Turn to the person next to you and share your ideas’, ‘Find a partner and work together’, ‘Tell your group’ were common phrases I was using. The Kagan’s strategies for cooperative learning (or ‘structures’ as they call them) are nothing new, good teachers have been using them in one way or another for years. But their structures are presented to the class in an explicit way, teaching the strategy from start to finish.

Each structure has been designed for maximum classroom participation at all times. This removes the situation of the smarter or more outspoken students dominating group time by speaking too much or doing all the work. Roles, responses and tasks are demonstrated before each structure is carried out.

One of the structures I have used this year is Talking Chips.

Here are the 4 steps that you explicitly teach the students. These slides come from the DVD.

Talking chips 1

Talking chips 2

Talking chips 3

Talking chips 4

I bought two packets of poker chips from the $2 shop. I found you needed to teach the children not to ‘play’ with the chips, there was a lot of tapping and spinning of the chips the first time we did Talking Chips. We did it for some brainstorming activities in Literacy and History lessons. After reading a text we did talking chips for naming all the characters, and for our topic on The Australian Gold Rush we did it naming miners’ equipment. At this stage I am using talking chips as a way to recall knowledge. I have been using other Kagan Structures for the sharing of ideas.

It was very successful, due to the novelty of using the poker chips. I have found that if I overuse the Kagan Structures for Cooperative Learning that the kids tend to get over it, so it’s been useful rotating a few each fortnight. I am looking forward to implementing more structures soon!

June 6

Spelling Activity Cards

As part of my literacy groups I have a group that works on spelling activities, with their current spelling list.  So what do they do each week? I wanted something fun, engaging, easy to organise, no hours of creating worksheets, simple to mark (if any) and independent.

After trawling the internet and thinking creatively I came up with these Spelling Activity Cards. The group gets the card and equipment, brings their spelling book and Voila! Ready made spelling activity.

There are 42 different activities, most able to be used with classes from Year 1 to 6. At the beginning of the year I use them with the whole class, as a modelling activity. It’s helpful to do this the week before they have to do it independently, especially with younger students.

Here are some images of some of the cards and students completing the different activities.

And here is a link to the actual spelling cards

Spelling Activity Cards

What other ideas do people use to practice spelling?