Kagan Online Magazine - Issue #55

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Letter from the editor
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Spencer’s Thinkpad

The Power of Praise

Dr. Spencer Kagan

In his research on brain science, Dr. Kagan discovered a vast array of studies touting the importance of praise. Praise enhances performance and memory. But watch out for the two praise pitfalls. Get expert advice on when to praise and how to praise in your classroom.

Featured Structure

Inside-Outside Circle


Get students up and interacting with classmates using this Kagan classic. This is a wonderful structure to have students quiz each other, share their work, or respond to thinking questions.

Administrator Tips

Resistance is Not Futile!

Dr. Vern Minor

For administrators, teachers' resistance to reform may be frustrating. However, initial resistance should not only be tolerated, but welcomed. Understand where resistance comes from and learn to embrace it for a more thoughtful approach to change.

Teacher & Training Tips

Pairing Up

Rachel Treaster

Many Kagan Structures involve students pairing up. Well, what do you do when kids pass each other up? Rachel offers some helpful tips that will get your kids pairing up like pros.

Training Opportunities

Summer Academy 2017

Ryan Haworth

Join Kagan for our 31st annual Summer Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Or if you can't make it to Florida, check out Kagan's new Regional Summer Academies in Austin, Dallas, Fresno, and Chicago.

New Products

Quiz-Quiz-Trade Books

Team Kagan

This favorite Kagan Structure is now a series of activity books. Choose from one of three new books: Mathematics, Grammar, and Vocabulary. Each book is loaded with ready-made quiz cards sets. Your students will love quizzing classmates. You'll love these time-saving resources that get everyone engaged.

A+ Anecdotes

Letters to Kagan Trainers

Kagan Trainers often get letters from teachers after their trainings. The letters are often inspirational success stories how Kagan changed their lives or teaching careers for the better. We thought it would be fun to publish a few for you to hear what fellow teachers write. One letter makes us question, did these teachers take "It's All About Engagement!" too literally?

Learning to Laugh

Performance Evaluations

What Participants Are Saying

Hear what teachers are saying about their recent Kagan workshops and their Kagan Trainers. Spoiler alert: "Phenomenal," "Thank you," "Amazing," and "The best" may be in a review or two.


Saudi Arabia Model School

Dr. Spencer Kagan shares his reactions after visiting a Kagan Model School in Saudi Arabia.

Special Article 1

Spencer Kagan on Cheers, Celebration and Praise

Dr. Spencer Kagan

The Kagan classroom is rich with cheers, celebrations, and praise. But what's the difference? Dr. Kagan distinguishes between these ways to elicit positive emotions in the classroom and offers insights about timing.

Special Article 2

Kagan Connections: Balanced Literacy

Jackie Minor, Ed.D. and Vern Minor, Ed.D.

Balanced Literacy is a way to teach language arts that balances different language arts components including: comprehension, word study, fluency, and writing. Balanced Literacy is even more powerful when delivered using interactive instructional methods. Read how to integrate Kagan to get greater engagement with Balanced Literacy.

Special Article 3

Secondary School Education and Cooperative Learning: A Perfect Match

Daren Harris

High school students often tell us "School is boring." They question, "When are we ever going to use this stuff?" Veteran high school administrator Daren Harris found Kagan Cooperative Learning to be the antidote to these problems for his teachers and students. With Kagan, school was more interactive and with that interaction came the development of social skills and communication skills—the very stuff every student needs in the real world.

Special Article 4

Why Kagan?


Teachers sometimes ask Melissa why she is so passionate about Kagan Cooperative Learning. This is why!

Special Article 5

Kagan Structures Improve Teacher Evaluations

Christi Brown

Teachers are scored as more effective with the implementation of Kagan Structures. Christi shares different components of evaluations and how Kagan Structures help teachers receive higher evaluations.

Letter from the Editor

Why Are We Still Bloodletting?

As an educational community, we are still bloodletting and it's still not working.

If you're not familiar with bloodletting, it's the practice of letting out blood to prevent illness and disease. You might think this is a crazy practice, and there, you're right. If you are familiar with bloodletting, you might be thinking that this can't possibly be something educators are involved in doing today. And metaphorically, you may be wrong. More of us may be in the instructional dark ages than we may care to admit.

Let's revisit the ancient practice of bloodletting. Before the advancement of science, we as humans had some odd beliefs and odd practices. We knew people got sick and people died of various diseases. But we didn't know why. We didn't know what to do about it. Rooted in our very basic need to help those we loved and cure the ailing among us, we developed practices based more on folklore than on science.

Bloodletting was one of the most common medical practices from antiquity for the next two thousand years. Actually, in the timeline of human history, it was not until just recently that professional surgery became a separate art and science from amateur barber-surgeons. If you were sick, your veins needed "breathing." So the barber, errr, I mean surgeon, would tie your arm to make your veins swell and make an incision to drain your blood. But not too much, mind you. (And as long as you were there, you might as well get your fingernails trimmed and maybe that achy tooth pulled too.)

Bloodletting was modeled after menstruation. Hippocrates believed it "purged women of bad humors." To be healthy, it was believed, we needed our humors in balance. The four humors were related to the Greek classical elements of air, water, earth and fire. The whole practice was very precise, with bleeding charts where to bleed the patient and how much to bleed the patient. Very sophisticated bloodletting tools were developed.

Famously, George Washington was bled heavily after developing a throat infection. It may have even been a key contributor to his death. Our blood also has several types of white blood cells that fight infection. By being drained of too much blood, his body may not have been able to fight off the infection.

Blood-sucking leeches were also used for bloodletting. In fact hundreds of millions of leeches were used by physicians to suck out blood. Incidentally, leeches are still used today, but for a very different purpose—to restore blood circulation for skin grafts. But I digress. As science and medicine progressed, we gave up our superstitious beliefs in favor of evidence-based approaches.

Kagan has been more readily embraced because educators are seeing the robust positive outcomes for themselves: learning, discipline, friendships, liking for school, social skill development.

As a field, medical science has exploded. Today, if you have a bacterial infection, it's likely you will be given antibiotics (which may have saved our first president). But tradition and ideas die hard. If you Google bloodletting, you will still find people today practicing this pseudoscience, convinced that they can heal themselves with a little cut here and a little draining there.

I'm not just rambling on about bloodletting because it is a fascinating dinner party topic. I began this intro by suggesting that we as an educational community are still bloodletting, and it's still not working.

Like doctors, educators are plagued with a multitude of ailments that we'd like to cure: disinterest, dropout, low test scores, socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps, racial tensions, lack of social skills, disciplinary problems… However, unlike medical science, the cure for these problems is not as simple as administering a pill or a vaccine to our students.

Nevertheless, pedagogy has progressed dramatically from the days of bloodletting. Social scientists have studied what works in education. There are now more evidence-based alternatives that fully engage more students. But teachers still cling steadfastly to ancient methods based more on tradition than on science. Why? Why would we stick with bloodletting when we have the modern tools to cure Polio? Why would we rely on traditional teaching methods when there are so much more powerful ways to reach and teach our students? Why would we continue to use teaching practices that may actually be harming many our students?

We know change is not easy. Change is not quick. Trust us, we know. We've been working on bringing research-based teaching to educators for decades and there are still so many educators to reach. Institutions are like icebergs, very difficult to turn. Education is no exception. But make no mistake, change is coming. There was a day when the Kagan approach was questioned: does this really work? Regardless of the number of studies we could point to, it was challenging to get schools to try something dramatically different. But today it's a different story. We can barely keep up with all the professional development requests from schools and districts. Yes, Kagan has evolved and improved, but that doesn't explain the differential acceptance rates. Kagan has been more readily embraced because educators are seeing the robust positive outcomes for themselves: learning, discipline, friendships, liking for school, social skill development. Kagan has been spreading from class to class, school to school, district to district. Further, it is becoming more apparent to educators that bloodletting isn't working, and working even less so with today's youth.

Indeed, change is not quick or easy. But change is a must. It is a must if we want to have the impact on our students that we want to see. When the medical profession discarded the leeches and medieval tools and embraced scientific advancements, they were able to make dramatic strides. Recent medical advancements include the human genome project, cancer therapies, and stem cell research. Similarly, as an educational community, we need to discard worn-out teaching methods in favor of evidence-based approaches so we can create classrooms where we engage all our students, where everyone is learning, and where students treat each other with kindness and respect.

If you're reading this, you may have already thrown out your bloodletting tools along with those other traditional potions, toxins, and elixirs that weren't working for your students. You may have embraced the teaching revolution. Good for you! Good for your students! Or maybe you're on the cusp of discovering a whole new world of teaching and learning. For those of you new to Kagan, welcome to the new age!

Bloodletting may have killed one of our greatest presidents ever. Let's not continue to participate in ancient practices that may be extinguishing the fire in our students. There's too much at stake. Let's join together for the instructional revolution and breathe new life into our classrooms.

Miguel Kagan

Miguel Kagan, Editor
Kagan Online Magazine
Kagan Publishing & Professional Development

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