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Special Article

Kagan on the Carpet:
Structures and Management Tips for Little Ones

Angela Pinkerton
Kagan Trainer

To cite this article: Pinkerton, A. Kagan on the Carpet: Structures and Management Tips for Little Ones San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #56. www.KaganOnline.com

When my four year old came home from the first week of Pre-K explaining to me that his arm was tired from raising it all day, I made it my mission to help teachers of little ones implement Kagan Structures.

While it can seem like a major challenge just to get our students to take turns, there are some great tips to help you get started implementing structures successfully with your primary students. We are going to start with using structures on the carpet, focusing only on three structures: RallyRobin, Timed-Pair-Share, and RoundRobin. First, we will begin with some helpful management tips.

Three Management Tips

1. Team Mat

First, students will need to be numbered in teams of four, labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4. Students will also need an assigned shoulder partner, labeled A and B. A visual mat is helpful for students to refer to at the carpet. You can place a mat in the center of the four students so that they are sitting in front of their number and letter.  Some teachers prefer to put labels on the carpet with tape, or even label the students with a sticker! As you start to use the numbers and letters for structures, students will begin to remember their number and letter.

2. Quiet Signal

The second management tip is to teach a quiet signal. Since the students will be talking, we need to have a quick way to stop the talking in order to move on in our lesson. Many teachers use a signal such as a noise maker, or a student call back. An example of a call back is when the teacher says, “1 2 3.” Then the students respond with, “Eyes on me.”

3. Visual Taking Turns

The final management tip is to have something for the students to pass as they talk. This helps the students with taking turns. As the bean bag is passed around the team or pair, students will know that only the student holding the item can talk. Items used for taking turns might be a bean bag, toy microphone, unifix cube, popsicle stick, or squishy ball.

Getting Started with Structures

Once you have set up your students in pairs and teams on the carpet with these three management tips, you will be set to teach structures!

Three Sitting Positions

When teaching a structure on the carpet, it helps to practice three sitting positions. First the Listening Position, which is crisscross apple sauce, facing forward, all eyes on the teacher. Second the Shoulder Partner Position, where students turn to face their shoulder partner. Third, the Team Position, when the two partners in front turn to make a circle with the two partner behind them. Once the students know these three positions, as well as their number and letter, they will be ready for their first structure.

Kagan Structures

When choosing your first structure, think about something you do every day on the carpet. I immediately think of the calendar or reading aloud. This is a great way to commit to doing at least one structure every day! In my example, I am going to focus on the calendar. If you ask students a question that requires a list of answers, such as, “What are the days of the week?”, then students can respond by doing a RallyRobin. “Rally” means students will be sharing in pairs, and “Robin” means they will be talking by taking turns. Before having the whole class share with their partners, model RallyRobin with a student using a bean bag. This way you can show them how to take turns, how to listen, and how to pass the bean bag appropriately. After modeling, check for understanding by asking a couple of review questions. “How do we pass the bean bag? Do we throw it or place it in your partner’s hands? Who will be talking, the person with the bean bag or without?” Once expectations are clear, re-ask the question, “What are the days of the week?”, and give students approximately 5 seconds of think time. As students are thinking, distribute the bean bags to Partner A in each pair. Then tell the students to get in their Partner Positions. Then, signal it’s time to start sharing. It is helpful to give them a trigger word. For example, “When I say ‘Go,' Partner A will begin with Sunday.” Pause, then say, “Ready… go.” As they pass the bean bag back and forth, each in turn stating a day of the week, listen and watch your engaged students. RallyRobin will become your go-to structure any time students are listing answers. Other familiar topics could be: words that begin with m, words in the –at family, things that you can measure with inches, things you can measure with feet, and so on.

When students have a longer response, use the structure Timed Pair Share. This allows students to expand on their answer for a given amount of time. For example, “What is your favorite season and why?” As the hands start to raise, you can tell students that everyone is going to get to share! Prepare a timer to ensure equal participation. Begin the same way as you did earlier. First model a Timed Pair Share with a student. Then give them think time. Tell the students to get in their partner positions. Last, tell them who goes first with your trigger word. “When I say ‘Go,’ Partner B you will begin. Ready… go.” Partner B shares for 30 seconds, while Partner A listens. After 30 seconds, the listener responds to their partner by saying, “Thank you for sharing.” Partner A shares next for the same amount of time. At the end of the time, Partner B responds, “Thank you for sharing.” Students turn back to their Listening Positon, and you can continue teaching. Timed Pair Share is excellent for all those stories your students want to tell you! Except everyone will get a turn to tell a partner. Now you have two great partner structures, RallyRobin and Timed Pair Share. What about having students share in a team?

RoundRobin is a great team structure for sharing multiple possible answers. If we go back to the calendar example, this would work well with naming the months of the year. Start by modeling a RoundRobin with a team of four students on the carpet. Give students think time to think of their answers. Have them get in their Team Positions by turning to face their assigned teams of 4. Last, give them the trigger phrase, “When I say ‘go,’ Student #2 you will begin.” Make sure Student #2 is holding the bean bag. Then say, “Ready… go.” During RoundRobin, students will pass the bean bag as they share ideas while you are listening and monitoring students. When you are ready to get your students’ attention, use your quiet signal to end the RoundRobin. After the structure is complete, teams can praise one another with a team celebration. Then they turn back to their Listening Position to continue learning.

Through the use of three simple structures, we can allow all students the opportunity to share. There will be fewer disruptions because more students are engaged. Students will also gain social skills like taking turns and active listening. This is just the start of a great learning opportunity, beginning from the floor up! Once you are feeling confident using structures during carpet time, you will think of more opportunities when students are seated at desks, tables, or even in centers.

Let’s rid the carpet of tired arms! When all students want to share, let’s turn to structures that allow an opportunity for everyone to be engaged. As you begin, don’t forget the three management tips: Assign student numbers (1-4) and partners (A/B) on the carpet, teach a quiet signal, and get items to pass for taking turns. As you teach your structure on the carpet, review seated positions: listening, partner, and team positions. Then teach your structure with confidence, first by modeling. It only takes one structure to get started. So think of a lesson that you do daily, like calendar. Then commit to using at least one structure in that lesson, every day. Before you know it, your students will be doing RallyRobin as automatically as they were raising their hands.