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Dr. Spencer Kagan

Kagan Structures for Emotional Intelligence

Dr. Spencer Kagan

To cite this article: Kagan, S. Kagan Structures for Emotional Intelligence. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Fall 2001. www.KaganOnline.com

Whether or not there is a class explicitly devoted to emotional literacy may matter far less than how these lessons are taught.
β€” Goleman, 1995, p. 279

With his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman (1995) revolutionized the thinking of many educators. He demonstrated that emotional intelligence ("EQ" for short, standing for Emotional Quotient) can be more important than IQ in determining not just academic achievement, but also job and life success. Goleman did not create the concept of emotional intelligence, but he did a masterful job of pulling together the research supporting its importance. Goleman not only showed why EQ is important, he suggested many ways EQ can be developed by schools. Whereas all of those ways are powerful and worthy of adoption by teachers and administrators, there is an approach to developing EQ Goleman did not explore: Regular use of structures. Our very best hope for developing EQ among pupils is the daily use of simple instructional strategies called structures β€” using EQ structures as part of every lesson, at all grade levels, and across all curriculum areas. Adopting EQ structures is not a change of curriculum; it is a change in instruction. Ironically this shift in approach to instruction revolutionizes what is learned in school far more than could any possible change in academic curriculum. To see why, we will first briefly overview the five dimensions of EQ, why they are important, Goleman's recommendations for fostering EQ in schools, and then finally turn to why structures are our best bet for fostering EQ.

Article At-A-Glance

I. The Five Dimensions of EQ
β€’ 1. Awareness of One's Own Emotions
β€’ 2. Controlling One's Own Emotions
β€’ 3. Motivating One's Self
β€’ 4. Knowing the Emotions of Others
β€’ 5. Relationship Skills

II. Why is EQ Important?
β€’ 1. National Center for Clinical Infant Programs
β€’ 2. Harvard Follow-Up
β€’ 3. 'Blighted Slum' Follow-Up
β€’ 4. Jason H.
β€’ 5. Stanford Marchmallow Experiment

III. Developing EQ
β€’ Moment to Moment Interactions
β€’ Turn to a Partner v. Timed Pair Share
β€’ PIES Present in Timed Pair Share
β€’ PIES Missing in Turn to a Partner
β€’ Sustatined Implementation
β€’ Experience with Kagan Structures
β€’ Theory of Sustained Implementation

IV. What Is a Structure?

V. Structures Deliver an Embedded Curriculum

VI. Kagan Structures for EQ

VII. Developing EQ - Two Approaches


I. The Five Dimensions of EQ

Dr. Peter Salovey of Yale University and John D. Mayer of University of New Hampshire first developed and researched the concept of "emotional intelligence" (Salovey and Mayer, 1990). They propose the following definition of emotional intelligence: ability to perceive emotions, to access emotions and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer and Salovey, 1997, p.9).

Their definition includes perception, understanding, and regulation of emotions. They explicitly argue against a broader definition of emotional intelligence that includes persistence (the ability to motivate oneself in the face of difficulties), empathy, and relationship skills.

It is the broader definition of emotional intelligence, however, offered by Daniel Goleman that has come to define the concept of emotional intelligence for educators. Goleman's definition consists of five dimensions, as follows:

1. Awareness of One's Own Emotions
β€’ Recognizing own emotions
β€’ Understanding causes of feelings
β€’ Recognizing the differences between feelings and actions

2. Controlling One's Own Emotions
β€’ Tolerating frustration; anger management
β€’ Avoiding put-downs, fights, classroom disruptions, suspensions, expulsions
β€’ Expressing anger without fighting
β€’ Avoiding aggressive or self-destructive behavior
β€’ Having positive feelings about self, school, family
β€’ Managing stress
β€’ Avoiding and managing loneliness and social anxiety

3. Motivating One's Self
β€’ Behaving responsibly, following through with plans
β€’ Focusing on task the at hand, paying attention
β€’ Behaving less impulsively
β€’ Improving achievement test scores

4. Knowing the Emotions of Others
β€’ Taking the perspective of others
β€’ Being sensitive to feelings of others, empathy
β€’ Listening skillfully to others

5. Relationship Skills
β€’ Understanding others and relationships
β€’ Resolving conflicts skillfully; negotiating disagreements
β€’ Solving relationship problems; communicating skillfully
β€’ Being popular, outgoing, friendly, involved with and sought out by peers
β€’ Being concerned, considerate of others
β€’ Being pro-social, harmonious in groups, sharing, cooperative, helpful, democratic.

As educators, most of us resonate to Goleman's five dimensional definition. We know first hand the importance of all five dimensions: We see the student who first discovers he was angry when he is already in the principal's office for discipline after having hit someone; we deal with the emotional outbursts of those who lack self-control; we see the devastating consequences when students give up in the face of failure because they lack self-motivation or self-control. We are forced to cope with the consequence for others of acts by those who lack empathy. Daily we see how lack of relationship skills can feed a vicious circle so isolation leads to loss of status and self-esteem which in turn leads to further isolation.

To help teachers understand and assess the five dimensions of EQ, I created the following rubric:

The Kagan EQ Rubric
Acts out feelings without awareness Differentiates feelings from sensations: recognizes basic feelings Differentiates many emotions and labels subtle differences of intensity; distinguish moods, states, emotions, feelings
Action precedes awareness Aware of rising emotions prior to acting on them; exercises control Awareness of what might produce emotions; uses variety of self-control techniques
Feels depressed without awareness of cause Uses self-help talk; focuses on goals Consciously reframes cognitions and restructures tasks
Unaware of feelings of others Recognizes expressed feelings of others Recognizes unexpressed feelings and moods in others
Relationship Skills
Cannot maintain close interpersonal relations Maintains friendships; relatively unskilled in wider range of social relations Wide range of skills; leadership, group facilitation, taskmaster, gatekeeper, friendship skills
Dr. Spencer Kagan: Emotional Intelligence & Character Development Course Workbook

II. Why is EQ Important?

Goleman summarizes a great body of work revealing the importance of emotional intelligence, and how EQ can be more important than IQ. Here are five pieces of evidence Goleman presents in his book:

1. National Center for Clinical Infant Programs
The National Center for Clinical Infant Programs points out that the facts a child knows and even early ability to read are not as predictive of school success as are factors like self-assurance, impulse control, ability to seek help from teachers, and social skills (National Center, 1992).

2. Harvard Follow-Up
The lack of importance of IQ in predicting life success was demonstrated in a study of Harvard students who had graduated in the 1940's. When these students were tracked down in middle-age, IQ did not predict salary, productivity, status in their field, life-satisfaction, happiness, friendships, or success in romantic relations (George Vallient, 1977).

3. 'Blighted Slum' Follow-Up
A similar finding held true at the opposite end of the socioeconomic ladder. Four hundred fifty children who grew up in a "blighted slum" were studied when they reached 47 years of age. IQ as a child did not predict adult unemployment rates, and was not nearly as good a predictor of socioeconomic level as was ability to handle frustrations, control emotions, and get on with other people (Felsman & Vallant, 1987).

4. Jason H.
The most extreme example of the discrepancy between emotional and cognitive intelligence provided by Goleman is the case of Jason H., a straight A high school sophomore. He dreamt of going to Harvard. When his physics teacher gave him an 80 on a quiz, which Jason believed would destroy his chances of going to Harvard, Jason took a butcher knife to school and stabbed his teacher. Jason was found innocent by reason of temporary insanity, but his teacher stated, "I think he tried to completely do me in with the knife (Goleman, 1995. p.33)." Jason went on to graduate from a private school with a 4.614 grade-point average, but never apologized to his teacher. Goleman asks the question: How can someone so smart do something so dumb?

5. Stanford Marshmallow Experiment
Who would ever guess that a brief observation of a four-year old alone with a marshmallow would be an excellent predictor of college entrance exam scores β€” twice as good a predictor as IQ test scores? In one of the most amazing developmental studies ever conducted, Walter Michel of Stanford created a simple test of the ability of four year old children to control impulses and delay gratification. Children were taken one at a time into a room with a one-way mirror. They were shown a marshmallow. The experimenter told them he had to leave and that they could have the marshmallow right then, but if they waited for the experimenter to return from an errand, they could have two marshmallows. One marshmallow was left on a table in front of them. Some children grabbed the available marshmallow within seconds of the experimenter leaving. Others waited up to twenty minutes for the experimenter to return. In a follow-up study (Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990), children were tested at 18 years of age and comparisons were made between the third of the children who grabbed the marshmallow (the "impulsive") and the third who delayed gratification in order to receive the enhanced reward ("impulse controlled").

The third of the children who were most impulsive at four years of age scored an average of 524 verbal and 528 math. The impulse controlled students who scored 610 verbal and 652 math! This astounding 210 point total score difference on the SAT was predicted on the basis of a single observation at four years of age! The 210 point difference is as large as the average differences between that of economically advantaged versus disadvantaged children and is larger than the difference between children from families with graduate degrees versus children whose parents did not finish high school! At four years of age gobbling a marshmallow now v. waiting for two later is twice as good a predictor of later SAT scores than is IQ. Poor impulse control is also a better predictor of later delinquency than is IQ (Block, 1995).

There were many other important differences between the impulsive and impulse-controlled four year-olds when they were observed as adolescents, See Box.

β€’ Assertive
β€’ Cope with frustration
β€’ Work better under pressure
β€’ Self-reliant, confident
β€’ Trustworthy
β€’ Dependable
β€’ Delay gratification
β€’ Academically competent
β€’ Respond to reason
β€’ Concentrate
β€’ Eager to learn
β€’ Follow through on plans
β€’ SAT: 610 verbal, 652 math
β€’ Indecisive
β€’ Overreact to frustration
β€’ Overwhelmed by stress
β€’ Lower self-image
β€’ Stubborn
β€’ Impulsive
β€’ Don't delay gratification
β€’ Poorer students
β€’ Prone to jealousy & envy
β€’ Provoke arguments
β€’ Sharp temper
β€’ Give up in face of failure
β€’ SAT: 524 verbal, 528 math
Source:Shoda, Michael, & Peake, 1990

Impulse control is but one of the five dimensions of emotional intelligence, but it impacts on many aspects of life. Academic achievement suffers (studying for the test or planning the project rather than following one's impulses to join friends to play) as well as social relations (talking through a conflict rather than hitting)

Impulse control demonstrates the intertwining of the different dimensions of EQ. A person is impulsive in part because he/she has not developed sufficient self-awareness and skills with internal states, so acts out rather than manages feelings. Thus it is not possible to completely disentangle impulse control from self-awareness and self-management.

The area of impulse-control provides a good example of the intertwining of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences: If I cannot control my emotions, my emotions drive rather than inform my behavior; I act out my emotions rather than reflect on my feelings. Failing to reflect on my feelings, I have less self-awareness (intrapersonal intelligence), but also will be far less effective socially (interpersonal intelligence).

III. Developing EQ

Given the data, it is obvious that as educators we will serve the next generation well we foster the development of emotional intelligence among our students. In the last chapter of Emotional Intelligence, Schooling the Emotions, Goleman offered hints and directions for how to apply EQ theory to school and classroom practice. Among the programs proffered:

β€’ classes in self-science
β€’ emotional literacy courses
β€’ social competence programs
β€’ social development classes
β€’ adopting prepackaged materials to compliment existing curriculum
β€’ creating preschool programs which emphasize social/emotional development
β€’ creating parent/teacher alliances, including classes for parents

Goleman overviews some of the elements of these programs. They are rich with special lessons, including:

β€’ identifying feelings
β€’ decision-making
β€’ impulse control, including a six-step stoplight for impulse control
β€’ anger management
β€’ conflict resolution, including training of students to be conflict resolution mediators
β€’ empathy, including instruction on the facial muscle activity associated with basic emotions
β€’ relationships
β€’ problem solving (SOCS: Situation, Options, Consequence, Solutions)
β€’ resisting temptations (sex and drugs)

The timing of the lessons, according to Goleman, should correspond to critical developmental stages. For example, lessons on empathy, impulse control, and anger management are especially important for fourth and fifth grade students (as peer relations emerge as extremely important at that age), and lessons on resisting temptations are particularly salient for students around sixth grade.

It is important, also to approach the development of EQ from various entry points, including

β€’ opening the doors of personal communication between pupils and teachers
β€’ teachers modeling negotiation rather than authoritarian approaches to discipline
β€’ class meetings
β€’ class role plays
β€’ blending lessons on feelings and relationships with academic topics

Most importantly, Goleman notes that how may be more important than what we teach: "Whether or not there is a class explicitly devoted to emotional literacy may matter far less than how these lessons are taught (Goleman, 1995, p. 279)." It is this last point, the importance of how we teach, that goes to the heart of using structures for EQ.

IV. What Is a Structure?

Structures are instructional strategies. They are carefully crafted, content-free, repeatable step-by-step scripts for interaction in an instructional setting. They are ways to structure the interaction of students with each other, with the curriculum, and with the teacher. Structures are designed to maximize positive educational outcomes. Because structures are content-free they can be used at all grade levels and with any curriculum content. A teacher using structures does not have to design activities from scratch: The teacher delivers existing curriculum using one or more structures.

Imagine that a teacher wants to have students practice an academic skill. Perhaps the goal is to practice vocabulary words, say words for color; or it is practice generating alternative hypotheses, say generating alternative explanations of the motivation of an historical, contemporary, or literary character. The teacher could call on one student at a time to state colors or hypotheses. That would be one way of structuring the interaction in the classroom. Alternatively, the teacher could tell the students to take out a piece of paper and write down color words or alternative hypotheses. That would be a different way to structure the interaction of students in the classroom. A third way to structure the interaction of students with each other and the curriculum would be for the teacher to use a proven Kagan Structure. For example, the teacher could call for a RallyRobin. In a RallyRobin, students turn to a partner and take turns sharing ideas, in this case naming different colors or alternative hypotheses. Or the teacher could have students do a RallyTable. In a RallyTable the students take turns adding ideas to a piece of paper they pass back and forth. In fact, there is always a structure in the classroom. But some structures promote emotional intelligence and others actually work against the development of EQ.

V. Structures Deliver an Embedded Curriculum

It turns out that which structure the teacher chooses determines, to a remarkable extent, what students learn. Structures deliver an embedded curriculum β€” a curriculum that is a function not of what we teach but of how we teach. Every decision regarding instruction is also a decision that impacts on what will be learned. The implicit curriculum, the curriculum embedded in how we teach, can be more important than the explicit curriculum.

If the teacher has students raise their hands and calls on the students one at a time, students learn to compete for teacher's attention. They are happy if a classmate misses, because it increases their own opportunity to receive recognition and approval. A "For Me" social orientation is fostered in which each person is to trying to score what they can in competition with others. Negative relations among students are fostered. Put-downs become common. The meta-communication to students: In this classroom a gain for one is a loss for another, and each person is in competition with every other.

If the teacher has all students make a list alone, relationships among students are not molded into direct competition although there may be competition among students through the social comparison process. The "For Me" social orientation is fostered in this structure as well because each person is to trying to score what they can working on their own. The meta-communication to students: In this classroom we work in isolation, and each person tries to get as much as they can for themselves.

If, however, the teacher has students do a RallyRobin or a RallyTable to generate their lists, students help each other, practice turn taking, develop a sense of fairness, enhance their mutual respect β€” all aspects of relationship skills, one of the five dimensions of EQ. Further, when RallyRobin or a RallyTable are used, especially with sharing of ideas and opinions, students develop their listening skills β€” a component of empathy, a second EQ dimension. Yet further, because the students take turns, they practice patient waiting β€” a component of impulse control, a third dimension of EQ. In short, when a teacher choose the appropriate structure, the teacher delivers an EQ curriculum. A "We" social orientation is fostered. The meta-communication to students: In this classroom we work together, each person has unique, valuable contributions to make and working together we are all enriched.

No matter how the teacher structures the interaction in the classroom, the teacher delivers two types of curricula: 1) the explicit academic curriculum and 2) an implicit curriculum which is embedded in the structures selected by the teacher. We can never deliver an academic curriculum in isolation, we are always impacting on EQ in one way or another. Because there is always a structure in the classroom, and because every structure includes an embedded curriculum, we are always delivering an implicit EQ curriculum. The question becomes, are we choosing on a regular basis structures which promote EQ? It is the embedded curriculum that most determines the development of EQ among students!

VI. Kagan Structures for EQ

In our work over the years, my associates and I have developed about 150 carefully crafted structures. The structures were not originally designed with EQ in mind. Most were designed to more efficiently deliver academic curriculum through cooperative learning (Kagan, 1994) and multiple intelligences (Kagan & Kagan, 1995). Nevertheless, the structures have positive outcomes along many dimensions, including social skill acquisition, character development, building community, improving social relations, teaching teamwork skills, and development of the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences β€” all aspects of EQ.

Some of the structures develop skills across all five EQ dimensions, others are particularly strong in developing skills in a specific EQ dimension. Spelling out all the ways each of the 150 structures develops each of the EQ skills would be an enormous task. Here I will limit myself to illustrating two structures which develop a range of EQ skills, and one structure which is particularly strong in each EQ dimension. Please keep in mind, though, that while I am limiting myself to exploring the relation of a few Kagan structures to EQ, most all of the structures develop at least some component of EQ.

Multi-Functional EQ Structures

A number of structures provide developmental opportunities in all five EQ dimensions. Let's look at two: Corners and Numbered Heads Together.


In Corners, the teacher usually posts in the corners of the room four choice alternatives (sometimes fewer or more). For example, the teacher might post in each corner of the room a picture of a different animal: Lion, Monkey, Beaver, Eagle. The teacher asks the students to think about their preference: "If you could be an animal for a day, which would you choose?" With no talking, students think about which alternative they prefer. Students then write down their choice and walk to that corner. They interact with a partner or partners in the corner to share the reasons for their choices, often using either a RoundRobin (in groups of three or four) or a RallyRobin or a Timed Pair Share (in pairs). Students listen to ideas from other corners and practice paraphrasing those ideas to their partner, usually using a RallyRobin.

Corners fosters emotional intelligence in a number of ways:

β€’ Self-Awareness: Students clarify their own feelings and values by making a choice and articulating the reasons for their preference.
β€’ Self-Control: Think time is included in the structure to allow students to think through their decision before acting, breaking the impulse-action chain.
β€’ Self-Motivation: There are many determinants of self-motivation. On thing that increases self-motivation, though, is having repeatedly been motivated to complete a task. Corners is often used as a set for a lesson. By articulating a choice verbally, students are more motivated to write about that choice and to take action on that preference later.
β€’ Empathy: Students listen carefully to points of view different from their own and are held accountable for understanding the ideas of others via the paraphrasing.
β€’ Relationship Skills: Students acquire skills in listening, communicating their own point of view, patient waiting, and showing respect to ideas different from their own.

One of the most important things to note is that Corners, like all Kagan Structures, is content-free. The students my be choosing corners based on which word in a poem they thought most significant, which problem in the homework they were most proud of solving, which alternative way of analyzing or presenting data they plan to use in their science project, which course of action would be wisest in response to an act of terrorism, or…. The possible academic content to use in corners in infinite. But regardless of the the academic content, Corners delivers a a second curriculum as well β€” the embedded curriculum, much of which is an powerful EQ curriculum.

Numbered Heads Together

In Numbered Heads Together students are in teams. A question is posed. Teammates individually think about their answer, write it down, put their heads together to discuss and formulate their best answer, and then the teacher calls a number. The student with that number shares his/her answer. There are a variety of response modes for sharing including slates, blackboard share, response cards, sharing with another team, and sharing with the class as a whole.

Numbered Heads Together, like many Kagan Structures, also fosters EQ in a number of ways:

β€’ Self-Awareness: As students articulate to the group their own opinions, they come to know themselves better.
β€’ Self-Control: Students cannot just raise their hand and try to win the attention of their teacher. They must control the impulse to answer for themselves and must try to make sure everyone on the team has formulated an answer.
β€’ Self-Motivation: Because students have the help of teammates they are more motivated to share with the class; students who otherwise would not share, do. While there are many facets to self-motivation, one is to build confidence to persist in the face of difficulty. Students build that confidence through Numbered Heads Together because they have the support of their teammates. Students learn to ask for help when they need it, rather than giving up and sinking into helplessness, in the process developing one of the skills of self-motivation.
β€’ Empathy: Students have to attend to others, and understand why their teammates might not understand an answer, sympathize with them, and help them.
β€’ Relationship Skills: Students acquire skills of helping, listening, cooperating, sharing, as well as team skills and leadership skills. Students decentrate, becoming concerned for others, not only for themselves.

Focused EQ Structures

A number of Kagan Structures are particularly strong in one of the five dimensions of EQ. Although these structures have impact on other EQ dimensions as well, they are outstanding in at least one. Below are some examples.


Journal Reflections is a simple structure in which students write alone in a journal their thoughts, questions, and learnings. Although designed to help process academic learning, Journal Reflections is very strong to promote self-awareness. Some teachers have students keep a feelings journal in which they record their emotional reactions to anything which occurs in school including successes, failures, and relationships. Many of the Kagan Structures involve Think Time, a silent three to five seconds for students to formulate their ideas before sharing them with a partner, with a group, or writing or drawing. Think Time is excellent for enhancing self-awareness because it asks students to attend to inner stimuli, a process which is at the heart of self-awareness.

Among the Kagan structures which are particularly strong for self-awareness:

Agreement Circles
Agree-Disagree Line-Ups
Response Mode Discussion

Think Time
Timed Pair Share


Talking Chips is an excellent way to teach impulse control. During a group discussion, when using Talking Chips the rule is simple: You have the right to talk when you put in your talking chip (pencil, token, colored marker). Once you have spoken, you cannot speak again until everyone has put in a chip. When all chips have been put in, they are collected and anyone in any order can go again. Talking Chips teaches self-control because it inserts reflection between impulse and action. Students who otherwise would talk every time an idea occurs to them, monitor their talk knowing they have but one turn a round.

Many Kagan Structures promote self-control because they insert thinking between impulse and action. Further, because many structures involve interaction in groups, and not everyone can interact at once, the structures teach the virtues of turn taking, fairness, and patience β€” all promotive of self-control. Among the Kagan structures which promote self-control:

Muscle Relaxation
Proactive Prioritizing
Relaxation Breathing

Team Projects
Turn Toss


Team Pair Solo is simple. Students do problems first as a team, then with a partner, and finally on their own. Team Pair Solo is designed to motivate students to tackle and succeed at problems which initially are beyond their ability. It is based on a simple notion: mediated learning. Students can do more things with help (mediation) than they can do alone. By allowing them to work on problems they could not do alone, first as a team and then with a partner, they progress to a point they can do alone that which at first they could do only with help. Once this process is internalized, students have learned a powerful tool in motivating themselves. Rather than giving up in the face of failure, students learn to turn to others for help. Ultimately, though, self-motivation is enhanced because students know that after receiving encouragement and coaching from their teammates, they must perform on their own β€” there is individual accountability. Individual accountability, built into all the Kagan structures, enhances motivation.

Self-motivation is promoted by structures which help students persist in the face of difficulty, affirm their goals, gain self-confidence, and tap resources which allow them to cope with setbacks. A number of the Kagan Structures promote those qualities, in different ways. Among the Kagan structures which promote self-motivation:

Guided Imagery
Pairs Check
Progressive Timed Pair Share
Rally Coach
Roving Reporter

See One, Do One, Teach One
Sages Share
Stir the Class
Team Test Taking for Practice


Paraphrase Passport is the strongest Kagan Structure for developing Empathy. It can be used as students interact in pairs, small groups, or in the class as a whole. The rule is simple: You must accurately paraphrase the person who spoke immediately before you, before you an express your own ideas. Students learn paraphrasing gambits such as, "If I hear you right..." "Do you mean to say..." and "Let me see if I got this right. You feel..." The speaker must feel accurately paraphrased before he/she gives the other person the passport to speak. If not, the speaker says, "I don't seem to have made myself clear. Let me try again." Empathy is promoted by Paraphrase Passport because each speaker is held individually accountable for listening carefully to the person who just spoke.

Empathy is promoted by structures which help students see the world through the eyes of others, or feel what it is like to be another person. Many Kagan Structures promote empathy because they involve interviewing others, decoding the body language of others, and interacting with others in situations in which perspective taking is key to success. Among the Kagan structures which promote empathy are:

Blind Sequencing
Draw It
Draw What I Write
Four Step Interview
Match Mine

People Hunt
Same Different
Team Statements
Three Pair Share
Three Step Interview

Relationship Skills

Among the many Kagan structures which promote the acquisition of relationship is Circle the Sage. First the teacher polls the class to see which students have a special knowledge to share. For example the teacher may ask who in the class was able to solve a difficult math homework questions, who had visited Mexico, who knows the chemical reactions involved which make salting the streets help dissipate snow, or who knows about an author's early life. Those students (the sages) stand and spread out in the room. The teacher then has the rest of the classmates each surround a sage, with no two members of the same team going to the same sage. The sage explains what they know while the classmates listen, ask questions, and take notes. All students then return to their teams. Each in turn, explains what they learned. Because each one has gone to a different sage, they compare notes. If there is disagreement, they stand up as a team. Finally, the disagreements are aired and resolved. Circle the Sage fosters a number of relationship skills, including listening, reporting, sharing, and resolving conflicts. Most important, it gives some students practice in leadership skills. If the teacher is careful in choosing topics and/or gives certain students prior knowledge on topics before doing Circle the Sage, each student in the class has an opportunity to be a leader.

Kagan Structures were originally developed to promote cooperative learning. Later they were found to be helpful in implementing other programs such as multiple intelligences, character development, and brain compatible learning. Because their roots are in cooperative learning, most of the Kagan structures promote relationship skills. Among the many Kagan structures which promote relationship skills:

All Around the Clock
Consensus Seeking
Find the Fiction
Gambit Chips
Pairs Compare

Picking Post-Its
Poems for Two Voices
Sharing Secrets
Similarity Groups
Team Interview
Teammates Consult
Who Am I?

VII. Developing EQ β€” Two Approaches

Educators have been concerned with developing emotional intelligence long before the term emotional intelligence was coined. On a daily basis students in our classrooms have emotional outbursts, give up, display a lack social skills, and show a lack of understanding of themselves and others. We cannot stay out of the business of dealing with EQ. Further, the workplace is shifting in ways which demand the development of EQ. Teams are becoming far more common, creating a demand for relationship skills. Diversity is becoming the norm, creating a demand for empathy. New forms of employment are emerging such as telecommuting, which creates a demand for workers who can motivate themselves. The change rate is accelerating creating stress and the need for workers who can understand and control their own emotions. EQ is emerging as an important curriculum; it cannot be ignored. The extent we foster EQ among our students will to a large extent determine the extent they will be successful in the workplace and the extent they will lead happy and productive lives.

The question: How do we best foster EQ?

There are two basic approaches we can take. We could drop traditional core curriculum to make room to include an explicit emotional intelligence curriculum. In this first approach we would design and teach lessons on emotional intelligence and adopt special programs on emotional intelligence.

Alternatively we can focus on how we teach, and teach in ways that promote EQ. In this second approach we teach our existing curriculum using a range of structures which promote EQ as an embedded curriculum. Rather than learning about EQ, students practice on a daily basis the skills which are at the heart of EQ, including impulse control, understanding of others, and management of one's own emotions.

Although both approaches to promoting EQ are important, the structural approach has some powerful advantages. Our actions speak louder than our words; and how we have students interact speaks louder yet. Rather than a single decontextualized lesson on some facet of EQ β€” a lesson which might soon be forgotten β€” the structures provide daily instruction in EQ skills in a meaningful context. The structures are a way of teaching by doing. Rather than lecturing about understanding or impulse control, the structures allow students to practice understanding and impulse control on a daily basis. Students cannot learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book about bicycle riding; they learn to ride by riding. Similarly, students cannot learn the skills of EQ by reading books about them, or hearing lectures about them. Only by repeatedly practicing the skills of EQ are they acquired. The cooperative learning structures have a proven research base demonstrating that they promote social development, social relations, and relationship skills.

Certainly the structures are not and should not be the only way to approach promoting EQ. But just as certainly the structures represent a very powerful set of tools β€” the most powerful set of tools β€” we can use in our efforts to foster emotional intelligence.


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Felsman, J.K. & Vaillant, G.E. Resilient children as adults: a 40-year study. In E.J. Anderson and B.J. Cohler, eds., The invulnerable child. New York: Guilford Press, 1987.

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Kagan, S. & Kagan, M. Multiple intelligences. The complete book. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing, 1995.

Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. What is Emotional Intelligence? In P. Salovey & D.J. Sluyter, Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational Implications. New York: Basic Books, 1997.

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