How to support students with special needs during Kagan?

Questions or discussion about Kagan theory, research, or implementing Kagan in your classroom.
Christi Brown
Posts: 66
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 8:15 pm

How to support students with special needs during Kagan?

Post by Christi Brown » Sat Mar 03, 2012 8:22 pm

While visiting a school for Kagan Coaching (not a shameless plug, but an incredibly valuable tool nevertheless), I was excited to meet a teacher who works with the special population at her school. She generated some ideas and some questions regarding "how to support students during structures?" The needs of students could mean anything: from ADHD to mute, and any spectrum of autism.

One suggestion that worked on many occasions in my classroom was to "twin" or "shadow" that student with someone who could take the lead, translate, model the social skill, create a comfortable/safe learning environment, or answer for the student that needs assistance.

Please share your experience, strength, and hope with all of us on this! We are looking for management hints, gambits, or any success stories for how ALL students can participate during Kagan Structures! Also, what's the difference between variation and modification?

Thanks for your participation!
Last edited by Christi Brown on Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:59 pm

Re: How to support Special Needs students during Kagan?

Post by rachel.treaster » Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:37 pm

This is a great question, Christi! I know many teachers ask, "I have non-English speaker(s) in my room. How can I support them?" By being a part of a Cooperative Learning classroom, these students are not only able to get multiple exposure to the language they can also try producing their language in a safe, friendly environment, with the help of a partner or teammate. A suggestion I have seen work very well when using structures, is to allow non-English speakers to repeat what a teammate has shared prior to their turn. Also allowing them to share in their first language before attempting to share in English is a great idea. I hope this helps!

Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:47 am

Re: How to support students with special needs during Kagan?

Post by TaTonka » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:02 am

I teach Biology in a High School in Va. I am the special ed half of a team-taught class and both of us are trying to use cooperative learning strategies as taught by Kagan in our classroom, but it has proven quite challenging in one class in particular. Here are our specific challenges:

1. It has been difficult to form teams that feature strong students working with those in need due to the makeup of the classroom. out of 27 kids in the room, 12 have IEPs, a few more have 504 plans, and of those that remain...not many could be said to be "strong" students.
2. The literature seems to indicate that cooperative learning/Kagan strategies can degrade into conflict when working with students who do not have good social skills if social skills training does not preceed activity. How to do this in a teamed setting?
3. Many of these kids have known each other for many years and they bring their conflicts from their neighborhoods and other classes into ours (which is at the end of the day) and so the value of cooperative learning can often not hold a candle to their attempts to defend themselves.


Sarah Ziebell
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 7:24 am

Re: How to support students with special needs during Kagan?

Post by Sarah Ziebell » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:01 am

These are some great questions! Here are a couple suggestions. When you are forming teams, look at the group that you have. It sound like you know your students very well! So take your group of 27 and find the highest 6 students. It doesn't matter how they compare to others, but just find your highest six. Then continue on with the other levels. In forming heterogenous groups, you want to have the groups as balanced as possible and even though you might not have many strong students to choose from, you will have your highest spread around the room at different teams.

When you have a group that has been together for many years, lives in the same neighborhood, still upset about something that was said during third period, etc, focus in on classbuilding and teambuilding. Lots of reasons why classbuilding and teambuilding can transform a classroom. It will help students establish safety by helping students get to know each other. Even though they have been together for years and live in the same area, how well do they really know each other? This will give them a structured safe way to learn about each other and build bonds. Also classbuilding and teambuilding will give them an opportunity to learn and practice social skills. To start, you could use RoundRobin or RoundTable with questions like, "What is your favorite food?" or "What is your favorite movie?" Basic getting to know you questions. Over time, I would increase the depth of the questions. Moving from basic getting acquainted topics to deeper questions like "Who do you look up to and why?"

Hope this helps!


Posts: 35
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 11:17 am

Re: How to support students with special needs during Kagan?

Post by krisosthoff » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:13 am

Great ideas and questions!
I wanted to add a bit about modifications and accommodations. A special education director in Texas named Vicki Rainwater explained it like so. Let's say the goal is to reach the top of a doorway for two students, one who is about 5'10" and one who is about 4'10". The 5'10" student can reach it. However, the 4'10" student needs some accommodations. The goal has not changed; it is still to reach the top of a doorway. Therefore, a modification is not needed. However, what accommodation can be provided to support the 4'10" student to ready the doorway? A step-stool, ladder. etc. would all be considered accommodations.

Wendy Burke
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 6:28 am

Re: How to support students with special needs during Kagan?

Post by Wendy Burke » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:16 pm

First- let me applaud you for trying Kagan with your HS students! I agree with Sarah- it is obvious that you know your students well. That is a sign of a GREAT teacher. I want to address your second question ...Don't forget, social skill instruction/practice is woven into every structure. If your students need help with actively listening, respecting others, valuing differences...- pick a structure which has these skills woven in. The most important thing, when teaching social skills, is make sure you give the students a model. Model what you want the social skill to look like and sound like. Build your student's toolbox- make sure you are giving them the gambits you want them to say during the structure. Chapter 11, of your Cooperative Learning book, is a great resource. What I tell teachers during my trainings is....students don't create these social skill deficits over night- we can't expect them to correct them over night either. However, through repeated practice and exposure- we can hope they will make smarter and better choices when in a similar situation in the future.
Best Wishes!