Kagan Online Magazine - Issue #56

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Letter from the editor
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Spencer’s Thinkpad

A Dozen Tools to Foster Growth Mindset and Prevent Learned Helplessness

Dr. Spencer Kagan

Dr. Kagan makes an insightful connection between the relatively new Growth Mindset theory and the classic Learned Helplessness theory. He moves from theory to offer practical tools teachers can use to help students foster a growth mindset and avoid slipping into helplessness.  

Featured Structure

Pair Share


Pair Share is an essential Kagan Structure. It's among the simplest of structures that can be used with just about any lesson. Plus, it’s one of the easiest ways to create student engagement for all.

Administrator Tips

Lots of Talk—Little Dialogue

Dr. Vern Minor

Too many leaders are still using techniques to engage staff in conversations that are ineffective. To improve teaching, we need to move away from appraisal and toward a true professional learning community.

Teacher & Training Tips

Taking Turns

Angela Pinkerton

Here's a small management tip that makes a big difference. For turn-taking structures, pass around a tangible item so everyone knows whose turn it is.

Tech Tips

Amazon Smile

Team Kagan

Donate to the charity of your choice for free. Giving has never been so easy.

Training Opportunities

2018 Summer Academies

Charlotte Armstrong

Join Kagan for a magical training at the Hilton in the Walt Disney® Resort in Orlando, Florida. Pick from a variety of engaging training opportunities from July 9–20.

New Products

Management & Discipline and Personal & Social Skills

Lisa Mitchell, Lynsy Oswald, and Sarah Walas Teed

Here are two new books hot off the press. These two books promote proper behavior in class and school. They develop life skills. Best of all, they do it all through engaging, step-by-step activities your students will love.

A+ Anecdotes

A Sampling of Recent Letters to Kagan

Teachers and administrators rave about their recent Kagan training and share how they are implementing what they learned to make a positive impact in their classes and schools.

Learning to Laugh

Group Project Memes

What Participants Are Saying

Participants have glowing reviews for their Kagan Trainers, specific workshop topics, and of course, the power of Kagan Structures.


Kagan Structures
A not so new approach to learning

Jane Louise Kandur

In this article, a longtime English teacher in Turkey searches for a better way. The old methods aren't working. Very few students are actually learning to speak English. Jane discovers Kagan Structures and is inspired by this cooperative method that really does engage students in English language learning.

Special Article 1

Student Perceptions of Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures

Dr. Michael Winters and Rebecca Galindo

Do students prefer working in teams or independently? Do they think they learn more using structures or working independently? According to this action research project, it's not even close! 95% of students report Kagan Structures provide more opportunity to learn.

Special Article 2

Kagan Structures in the Gifted Clustered Classroom

Stefanie McKoy

Stefanie shares her tips for grouping gifted kids in the regular classroom.

Special Article 3

Kagan Structures Empower Teachers, and That Is a Beautiful Thing

Kris Osthoff

In this interview, Principal Brooke Kelly shares her successes with Kagan at Goose Bay Elementary. It didn't happen overnight, but office referrals almost disappeared. Her school went from the lowest in the district to one of the most successful. Brooke and her teachers share their struggles and their victories.

Special Article 4

Summer Teacher Training – Kagan Structures

Kristi McCracken

Kristi is an educational columnist for the Porterville Recorder in central California. She shares her impressions and takeaways from a Kagan summer training with hundreds local teachers. 

Special Article 5

My Wheels Are Spinning

Amy Skeans and Vern Minor

In this email exchange, Amy and Vern ruminate on the delicate balance between novelty and predictability. They find Kagan Structures create novel learning opportunities, but the structured interactions are predictable sequences that provide guiderails to learning for special needs and neurotypical kids alike.

Letter from the Editor

Tools of the Trade

When I was younger, my dad told me a silly joke that stuck with me. I didn't realize at the time that his joke had direct applications to teaching and Kagan in particular. As my dad is a man of great wisdom, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to learn that his joke wasn't for a laugh so much as to teach me an unforgettable lesson.

The joke went something like this: Larry the Lumberjack was physically exhausted after cutting down trees all day. He was dead tired! On his way home, he stopped at the local lumberjack bar to have a beer and contemplate his demanding career path.

He dragged his weary body into the bar and sat down on a stool. He looked at the other lumberjacks. They were full of energy, laughing, and having a good ole time. "How are they not dog tired like me," he thought? Larry convinced himself that none of them worked nearly as hard as he did.

When the other lumberjacks began talking about how many trees they cut down, Larry lifted his beanie over his ears so he could eavesdrop. One burly lumberjack bragged: "Today I cut down down one hundred trees." Another one chimed in: "That's nothing. I cut down one hundred and fifty."

Larry just about fainted when he heard the numbers. For he had only cut down five trees all day. How in the world could they cut down so many trees and have so much energy? He had to find out!

So Larry gathered his courage and approached Scott, a red-bearded lumberjack with red suspenders. "I overheard you say you chopped down one hundred and fifty trees. Is that really true?"

Scott boasted, "Just another day at the office."

Larry begged, "Can you teach me?"

"Of course I can," Scott replied good-naturedly. He ushered Larry out to his old pickup truck and grabbed a giant chainsaw from his truck bed. "Get yourself one of these bad boys and I guarantee you'll be matching my numbers in no time."

Larry exclaimed with glee: "Well that explains it! I've been using an axe!"

Scott shook his head in disbelief.

On his way home, Larry stopped at the hardware store and picked up the exact same chainsaw. The next day he took his new chainsaw to work. After a full day's work, Larry was exasperated. He only cut down three trees! His productivity didn't increase—it dropped!

Larry drove straight back to the bar and marched himself right back up to Scott. "It didn't work! I cut down even fewer trees."

Scott looked at him incredulously. "Tell you what. Tomorrow after work I'll stop by your plot and see what you're doing wrong."

The next day, Larry went back to work. He worked himself so hard cutting down four trees that he fell asleep underneath a large tree. When Scott arrived, he found Larry snoring heavy. Scott picked up Larry's chainsaw and examined it to see if there was a problem. He pulled the cord and fired it up: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. The loud noise of the motor shocked Larry out of his sleep. "WHAT THE HECK IS THAT!"

Get it? For those of you who didn't get it, the punchline is the sound scared Larry because he had no idea what the sound was. He hadn't even turned on his chainsaw. He had been trying to saw down the trees with his chainsaw off.

Selecting the correct tool for the job is critical. Because teachers have so many teaching objectives, Kagan offers a whole toolbox full of teaching tools.

I know that was a long journey to get to a less-than-hilarious punchline. (It is a lot funnier to hear my dad tell it and act out Larry being startled by the chainsaw!) But as I said, it directly relates to education and Kagan specifically. You see, at first Larry was trying to chop down trees with an axe when a modern chainsaw was clearly the tool of choice. Similarly, many teachers are trying to teach using traditional lessons and worksheets when there are better alternative available. Like Larry, they end up dog tired and frustrated because they aren't getting the results they want. I can't tell you how many teachers have told us that they were contemplating a different career path or retirement before they attended a Kagan training.

Selecting the correct tool for the job is critical. Because teachers have so many teaching objectives, Kagan offers a whole toolbox full of teaching tools. There are Kagan Structures for content mastery, developing social skills, deepening thinking skills, teambuilding, enhancing class climate, and so on.

Having the right tools in your teaching toolbox is half the battle. The other half is knowing how to use the tools. If you don't use your chainsaw correctly, it can be more detrimental than helpful.

Let Kagan help you fill your teaching toolbox with tools that have proven successful for countless teachers and schools. Let Kagan guide you how to use the tools for maximum student success.

Unlike in our joke, Kagan can't help you chop down more trees. But surely we can help you plant more seeds of knowledge and engagement!

Miguel Kagan

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

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