Kagan Structures – what are those?

Ka·gan struc·tures

These are techniques, based on the work of researcher Spencer Kagan, that teachers can use to get kids talking, sharing ideas and learning from one another, all while practicing skills — such as listening patiently — that can be difficult even for adults. In “think-pair-share,” for example, teachers pose a question and give students a few minutes to think it over. Then the students pair up to discuss it with a neighbor, and finally they share their discussion with the whole class. (Source: “What the heck is your kids’ teacher talking about? Here’s a glossary.”)

The concept, however, is explained by Dr Spencer Kagan himself as follows:

“What are Kagan Structures?

Structures are simple, step-by-step instructional strategies. Most Kagan Structures are designed to increase student engagement and cooperation. For example, a simple Kagan Structure is a RallyRobin. Rather than calling on one student at a time, the teacher has all students interacting at once by saying, “Turn to your partner and do a RallyRobin.” During a RallyRobin, students repeatedly take turns, giving one answer each turn to create an oral list. Each student in the class gives several answers. For longer responses, the teacher might use a different structure, a Timed Pair Share. In a Timed Pair Share, each student in turn shares for a predetermined time, perhaps only a minute each.

The miracle of structures is that in the same amount of time that the teacher could call on and respond to two or three students in the class, each giving one answer, the teacher can have every student give several answers. In the traditional, call-on-one-at-a-time approach to instruction, it would take about an hour to have each student speak for a minute because the teacher asks the question, the student responds, and then the teacher responds to the answer, giving either a correction or praise. Further, because it tends to be the same students responding all the time, many students seldom participate, or even not at all. In the traditional approach, we end up calling most on those who least need the practice, and least on those who most need the practice. In contrast, with the structures, because all the students are responding at once, it takes only two minutes to give each student a minute of active engagement time, and it is not just the high achievers responding — everyone responds. Engagement goes up, as does joy in learning and achievement scores.

I have been working on the development of structures since 1968. Over the years, we have developed over 200 structures. Some are designed to engage and develop specific types of thinking, others to engage and develop specific social skills, others to develop different intelligences, others to align instruction with principles derived from brain science, and yet others to foster mastery of different types of academic content. We have even developed discipline structures to guide teachers as they interact with disruptive students so they can create win-win discipline solutions!”Dr Spencer Kagan, Kagan Online Magazine

Find out more about how Kagan Structures are supposed to work, and compare with other methods here.

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