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Dr. Spencer Kagan

Kagan Structures: A Miracle of Active Engagement

3 Flashcard Game

Language functions:
Vocabulary, Grammar, Memorization

• Develops mastery through repetition and peer tutoring
• Students learn by quizzing and being quizzed.
• Students receive immediate feedback.

Structure summary:
Partners (Tutor and Tutee) proceed through three rounds as they quiz each other with flashcards, master the content, and win their cards.

The Flashcard Game
facilitates mastery of English words, phrases, and rules.

Description:The Flashcard Game facilitates mastery of English words, phrases, and rules. Students need flashcards to play. If no flashcards exist for the content, students can easily make their own. The flashcards can take many different forms, depending on the content to be learned. For vocabulary words, one side of the flashcard has a picture and the answer is on the back. For grammar, the card can have future tense on one side and past tense on the other side. Once the cards are made up, students proceed through three rounds in pairs to memorize the content. In Round 1, the “Tutor” shows and reads the front and back of the flashcard. Then, the “Tutor” shows the front of the card and the “Tutee” gives the answer for the back. If the “Tutee” answers correctly, the “Tutor” offers a praiser and gives the “Tutee” the card. If the “Tutee” answers incorrectly, he or she does not win the flashcard. The “Tutor” offers a hint or shows the answer again. When they have gone through all the cards, the pair switches roles and goes through the cards again.

For Round 2, fewer cues are given. The “Tutor” shows the front of the card and the “Tutee” tries to win back the card by giving a correct answer. When both students win back all their cards, they move on to Round 3. In Round 3, fewer cues are given yet. The “Tutor” says what’s on the front, this time without showing the card. The “Tutee” tries to win back the cards with the correct answer.

The Flashcard Game is done in rounds to improve the likelihood of success at each round. Students are the “Tutor” and “Tutee” and get repeated practice and immediate feedback.

4 RallyCoach

Language functions:
Grammar, Vocabulary Comprehension, Questions, and Skills

• Students verbalize problems and answers.
• Students receive frequent and immediate feedback.
• Students receive peer help and support.
• Students are all held accountable for participating.

Structure summary:
In pairs, students take turns answering problems while the other coaches.

RallyCoach transforms
independent work to
cooperative work.

Description: RallyCoach is ideal for peer tutoring and support during practice time. Students pair up. If students are seated in cooperative teams of four, they pair up within their own team. If not, the teacher may assign students to pairs. The pair receives a worksheet or multi-part task. The problems are typically mastery-oriented practice problems, such as grammar practice. But RallyCoach can also be used with more challenging or creative problems such as written responses. In the pair, one student is the “Solver” and the other the “Coach”. The “Solver” answers the problem, verbalizing the answer before writing. The “Coach” watches and listens. The “Coach” offers help if needed. When the “Solver” solves the problem, the “Coach” offers praise, Great job, partner! Partners switch roles and the “Solver” becomes the “Coach” for the next problem.

RallyCoach transforms independent work to cooperative work. During practice sessions, two heads are better than one. Partners can pool their knowledge and provide peer help and support when necessary. Partners hold each other accountable to the task. While working together, students also get to practice speaking as they verbalize answers.

5 RallyRead

Language functions:
Reading, Fluency, Comprehension, Listening

• Students develop language fluency.
• Promotes active engagement since half the class is either actively reading or actively listening
• Develops reading comprehension because students must respond to frequent comprehension questions.

Structure summary:
Partners take turns reading and checking for comprehension.

Description: RallyRead is an effective structure for building reading fluency and comprehension. The teacher assigns the reading text. It can be a story, a blog entry, an email, a newspaper article—anything at the appropriate level of difficulty. The teacher informs students how often they need to switch readers. Partners can switch every sentence, every paragraph, or every page, depending on students’ ability levels. Partners can also switch roles on timed intervals, such as every minute. Partner A reads his specified reading period. When finished, he asks his partner a comprehension question. For example, Where did the dog go? Partner B answers. If correct, Partner A praises, Good listening! If incorrect, Partner A offers help, referring the partner to the appropriate reading passage so the partner can find the correct answer.

RallyRead is often preferable to independent reading because students get the opportunity to practice their fluency skills and also get practice in rhythm and intonation. Words often come out differently when pronounced than when read in one’s head. RallyRead also develops listening skills. Students must listen actively for comprehension to correctly respond to their partners. While teacher read-alouds are good to model proper pronunciation, they lack the active student participation that RallyRead offers.

6 Talking Chips

Language functions:
Communication regulator, Fluency builder

• Every student is held accountable for participating.
• Develops speaking and listening skills

Structure summary:
Teammates place a “talking chip” in the center of the team table each time they talk. When they’re out of chips, they may not talk until all teammates have used their chips.

Description: Each student receives one “talking chip.” The chips can be any kind of game token, or a pen, pencil, eraser, slip of paper, or any other tangible item. It is preferable if each student has a unique color for his/her chips. The students are given an open-ended discussion topic such as, Where in the world would you most want to live and why? In order to speak, a teammate must place his or her chip in the center of the team table. It is his or her turn to speak. Teammates cannot interrupt and must practice respectful listening. When he or she is finished, another student places his or her chip in the center of the team table and is free to add to the discussion. When a student uses his or her “talking chip”, he or she cannot speak until all teammates have added to the discussion and placed their chip in the center of the table. When everyone has had a chance to speak, each student collects her or his chips and continues with the discussion, using “talking chips” or start again with a new topic.

Talking Chips regulates discussion, ensuring that everyone participates and everyone contributes. Shy students, low achievers, and less-fluent students are encouraged by the social norms of the structure to fully participate and develop their language skills, too.

About the Authors
Dr. Spencer Kagan is an internationally acclaimed researcher, presenter, and author of over 100 books, chapters, and journal articles. He is a former clinical psychologist and full professor of psychology and education at the University of California. He is the principal author of the single most comprehensive book for educators in each of four fields: cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, classroom discipline, and classroom energizers. Dr. Kagan developed the concept of structures; his popular brain-based, cooperative learning, and multiple intelligences structures like Numbered Heads Together and Timed Pair Share are used in teacher-training institutes and classrooms world-wide. He has taught workshops and given keynote speeches in over 20 countries, and his books are translated into many languages. Dr. Kagan has been featured in the leading educational magazines, including Educational Leadership, Instructor, Learning Magazine, and Video Journal.

Miguel Kagan is an Executive Director of Kagan Publishing & Professional Development, an educational organization that offers publications and workshops on cooperative learning, language learning, and active engagement. Miguel, together with Dr. Kagan, co-authored a radical revision of the classic book, Kagan Cooperative Learning. Miguel has also written, designed, and developed a multitude of books, SmartCards, software programs, learning games, and electronic devises for Kagan Publishing. He is the editor of Kagan Online Magazine, Kagan’s e-zine that offers articles, research, and tips for educators implementing Kagan Structures.