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Research & Rationale

Discipline Referrals Decrease Dramatically at Sage Elementary

Special Article

Marlene Kramer
Instructional Coach and Kagan School Trainer
(Kagan Online Magazine, Spring/Summer 2014)

To cite this article: Kramer, M. Discipline Referrals Decrease Dramatically at Sage Elementary San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Spring/Summer 2014. www.KaganOnline.com

Sage Elementary is a K-4 Elementary in Rock Springs, WY with approximately 450 students. Sage has a diverse population serving approximately 20% ELL students and students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, with about 40% qualifying for the free/reduced lunch program.

Sage began implementing Kagan Cooperative Learning five years ago. At Sage, almost all staff attended the five-day Kagan Cooperative Learning course and many have attended additional Kagan courses. Staff received on-site Kagan Coaching for two years and continued to receive coaching from myself as the Kagan School Trainer in subsequent years. For the past three years, we have implemented Structure of the Month Clubs in which the staff focuses on a structure school wide to implement in their classrooms. Reinforcing social skills within all of the structures was a strong emphasis for our staff as discipline referrals were high and improving school culture and respect among our students was a priority.

In every classroom at Sage, students work in heterogeneous teams of four and routinely engage in a variety of Kagan structures. Teachers consistently reinforce the social skills built into each structure as they ensure that students know how to properly greet one another, offer praise, thank one another, and give appropriate departures.  Teachers also engage their classes in class builders and team builders on a frequent basis to build safety, trust, and respect within their classroom. One of the exciting transformations that has occurred at Sage over the past four years is that the respect students show to one another in the classroom has transferred to other settings. The greetings, praises, and departures students use within Kagan structures have now become a part of the students’ natural language and can be heard in the lunchroom, hallway, and during other times of the day.

Principal, Tina Searle, sets the expectation that all teachers will implement Kagan Cooperative Learning. As the instructional coach, I support teachers by providing Kagan Coaching, modeling, and assist with lesson planning. Mrs. Searle and I ensure that we implement Kagan structures in all staff meetings and professional development we present and always engage the staff in class and team builders to not only model best practices, but to build relationships among staff as well.

Discipline referrals have decreased by nearly 33% over the past four years at Sage. The steady decline in discipline referrals over the four-year period can be largely attributed to the implementation of Kagan Cooperative Learning for two reasons. First, as teachers have utilized Kagan structures, students have become more engaged in the learning process, with less opportunities to be off-task. Secondly, the great emphasis we as a staff have placed on reinforcing the social skills within each structure as well as the consistent use of class builders and team builders has increased the respect students have for one another as well as adults building wide.

As you implement Kagan Cooperative Learning, be sure to take advantage of the natural opportunities to reinforce social skills built into the structures and to consistently model, reinforce, and expect these from your students. The greetings, praises, departures, and cheers will become natural for your students with consistent expectations to use them. In addition, be sure to consistently implement class builders and team builders as these are vital to building a strong community of learners that will not only strengthen the community within your class, but when used building-wide, will build a strong school community.  

Following are some quotes from students and teachers at Sage regarding Kagan Cooperative Learning:

“My ELL students are much more willing to share their ideas using Kagan Structures rather than with the whole class. It helps them build their oral language. It’s safer for them.”
—Sarah Register, Kindergarten Teacher

“As I have done class builders, I have noticed my students helping, encouraging, and supporting each other in all settings, without hesitation.  They have become a community who cares about everyone.”
—Chelsea Porter, First Grade Teacher

“Kagan Cooperative Learning has greatly increased student engagement and achievement in my class and behavior issues have decreased.”
—Karen Maddox, Third Grade Teacher

“You get to learn lots and sometimes it’s like you’re the teacher when you get to help someone else.”
—First Grader

“We have to use our brains, but if we don’t know, we have someone to help us.”
—Third Grader

“I like being able to explain my thinking in Rally Coach, it helps me understand it better.”
—Fourth Grader