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Articles by Dr. Vern Minor

Earning A Grades with Kagan

High Expectations of Implementation.

The teachers received Kagan training during my first year as principal. The second year of my tenure started with me stating the instructional expectation that each teacher would use a minimum of one Kagan Structure per lesson. I monitored this expectation through the collecting of lesson plans and through extensive informal classroom observations.

Cooperative Staff Meetings. I modeled my instructional expectation. One of the biggest steps to implementing structures in a school is to model the use of structures during every staff meeting and professional development session. The teachers saw how easily structures could be used, they became excited about the structures we were using, and most importantly, they were able to feel what it feels like to be completely engaged during instruction. They wanted their students to feel the same way during their instruction as they did during training.

Coaching and Feedback. I provided feedback. Another big step in implementing structures was feedback, feedback, and more feedback. If a teacher was observed using a structure, I could provide them with tips to improve the structure. More importantly, I could explain when to use a structure, how to use it, and which structure would be appropriate for the activity the teacher was doing. Once the teachers became comfortable with the structures and became skilled at identifying the points in a lesson a structure could be used, lessons often times involved multiple structures instead of just the minimally required one.

Extensive Kagan Support Resources. I provided teachers with the materials needed to implement the structures. Every teacher on campus had a full set of Kagan posters, individual student white boards, markers, erasers, and software including spinners, timers, and Numbered Heads Together. I took away all the excuses for not using structures. There was no reason a teacher could not use structures.

Creating a Culture of Success. I cultivated a culture of success. Success bred an infectious excitement about Kagan structures; once the teachers saw success, they wanted more. They realized that using structures greatly enhanced the active engagement in their classroom. The enhanced active engagement greatly increased test scores. The teachers noticed the students enjoying class more and enjoying coming to school. I tell people that if you gave our students the choice of going to Disneyland for the day or going to school, they would choose Disneyland but they would have to think about it first.

An Opportunity to Implement Kagan Structures District-wide

The 2013-2014 school year was my last as a principal. I have moved to the role of Administrator for Curriculum and Instruction for the Madison Elementary School District. The Madison School District is the only elementary school district in the Phoenix metro area to receive an "A" label from the Arizona Department of Education. The district is comprised of four K-4 elementary schools, three 5-8 middle schools, and one K-8 traditional school. Half of the district's schools are Title I with district-wide free and reduced lunch percentages ranging from 88% to 14%. My new challenge is to successfully implement Kagan Structures district-wide and to try to replicate the success demonstrated by my previous two schools on a larger scale.

Teacher Quotes

Using Kagan Structures in my classroom has allowed me to monitor students' growth and progress efficiently. I love how students coach and support one another in their learning. With a class full of active 9- and 10-year olds, it is nice to have structured ways to keep them active and engaged."

— Dawn Mincher, 4th grade teacher

I am a huge fan of Kagan Cooperative Learning! Since being introduced to many of the structures and philosophies, I have witnessed incredible growth in my students. They are heavily engaged, having fun, building vocabulary, and progressing in ways I have not seen before. I work primarily with English Language Learners and the amount of language they use during Kagan Structures is intense. Within weeks, they are speaking in complete sentences, broadening their vocabulary and explaining their thinking. Kagan Structures have directly contributed to the overall climate of my classroom. It is a positive environment where we all support one another, coach and praise one another, and develop trust. The students feel safe, confident and successful! I look forward each day to exposing my students to this wonderful learning style and feel inspired by their excitement and motivation."

— Jeannie Swanson, Kindergarten teacher

Kagan Structures have enabled me to reach all of my students including English language learners, students with learning disabilities, and students from a low socioeconomic background. The ability to impact and actively engage all students has resulted in high achievement for all learners."

— Maggie Rodriguez, 3rd grade teacher (now district literacy coach)

Knowing my kindergarteners will experience Kagan Cooperative Learning throughout their schooling career at Camelview is reassuring to me. I know they will know cooperative learning as a way of academic achievement and interactions from K-4. The growth and achievements they accomplished socially, emotionally, and academically through Kagan structures will continue to strengthen their success rate through their remaining years here and beyond."

— Riana Solano, Kindergarten teacher

The use of Kagan Cooperative Learning structures in my classroom has taken me from a good teacher to a great teacher. It has made every student in my class successful and accountable. Students also enjoy learning more when they are held to higher expectations of participation, accountability, and engagement."

— Summer Izatt, 3rd grade teacher

I work with small groups of students in reading intervention. In the past, I wasn't sure how Kagan structures would work in my group of 5 students. However, once I incorporated them into my lesson plans, the engagement level and enthusiasm for learning, increased greatly. Structures such as Showdown, Fan-N-Pick, Rally Coach, and Rally Robin are some of my favorites, but I have also adapted larger group structures such as Quiz-Quiz-Trade to my small groups and students love them. Now, I can't imagine planning a lesson that didn't include a cooperative learning structure."

— Susan Trushinsky, Reading Interventionist

Because of Kagan, I have watched my students blossom into teachers. They are easily able to verbalize their thinking, give evidence, and support their peers in their learning. Cooperative learning structures have also attributed to the creation of a safe and participatory learning environment. The kids who typically "hide" behind the more vocal kiddos are able to find their voice and their confidence. When all the kids are engaged, undesirable behaviors are decreased."

— Stacy Aguilar, 4th grade teacher

I'm a Special Education Teacher and always looking for ways to generate engaging activities. I have been using the Kagan Structures for the past four years and I have found they not only provide students with both content and structure but also accountability through cooperative learning."

— Laurie Wilson, Special Education Resource teacher