September 17, 2013

Cooperative Learning Strategy for Any Grade

One of the benefits of being a teacher assistant this year is that I get to observe six different teachers
each day. Even if they teach a content area that is completely different from my own, I have been learning from their management and engagement strategies each day.

I feel very fortunate to be working on a team with some wonderful teachers who are all Kagan-trained. This is an extra bonus for me because I've wanted to attend a Kagan training for years (I had a teaching partner one year who was trained and offered some great activities that year), and now I get to see more of those strategies in action. For those that aren't familiar, the Kagan strategies focus on cooperative learning and student engagement.

For today's teacher tip, I wanted to share a strategy I learned last week: Hand Up, Stand Up, Pair Up. I can see this activity being used for many purposes, but we did it as a review game for the upcoming reading strategies quiz. Here's how it worked:

  1. Half of the class was given a sandwich bag containing the reading strategies and definitions. 
  2. On our command, the entire class had to stand up, put a hand in the air (signaling that you need a partner) and find a partner. 
  3. Students with the reading strategy bags had to find partners without them and vice-versa.
  4. Once students find an acceptable partner, they can high-five and put down their hands.
  5. The student with the bag then asks his/her partner to identify one reading strategy from the definition provided on the card, coaching as necessary.
  6. Once the partner has identified the correct answer, the bag of cards is given to the other partner.
  7. The new student with the bag then asks his/her partner to identify one reading strategy from the definition provided on the card, coaching as necessary.
  8. One both partners have identified a reading strategy, both partners raise their hands (again, signaling that you need a new partner) and mingle around the room in search of a new partner. (The partner who started with the bag should NOT be the partner leaving with the bag.)
Teacher Tip: I asked students to hold up the bag if they had the reading strategies so it was easier to see who should pair up. Otherwise, we were seeing pairs of students without strategy cards and other pairs with two.

Depending on the activity they're doing, your students could absolutely sit with their partners during each round. This would make it even easier to identify who needs a partner for each round. Since our students were only together for about a minute each time, we let them stand together instead, which worked out fine once they raised the bags in the air. 

This is a great way to make sure your students are working with a variety of people in the classroom, as it is not really possible for them to only work with their friends. It was easy for us to walk around and listen to the answers to see how much more practice they needed to prepare for the quiz. Our students really enjoyed being able to move around and give each other some creative high-fives. :)

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