Teachers become students as they load their instructional toolbox

Two teachers are shown in the foreground participating in a Kagan structure.

While students are enjoying the first day of their winter and Christmas break, teachers that are new to Knox County Public Schools are busy loading their instructional toolbox.

It may not sound like the type of Christmas present or fun that one would wish for, but for these teachers, it is a gift that they can take into their classrooms this January.  Kagan structures may not be a new phrase to most students, but simply put, it is a set of high-yield methods to get students to take control of their learning through cooperative, or shared, learning activities.

The two-day event is being held for both elementary and middle/high school teachers.  Each training is tailored to the grade level audience, but the structures (or activities) remain the same.  During the training, the teachers take on the role of a student so that they understand firsthand how the structure should work.  The Kagan facilitator walks the student-teachers through each step to ensure that they implement it correctly when they return to their classroom.

From round-robin to inside out, each structure is designed to get all students involved.  In the writing round-robin for example, students take turns sharing responses in a small group.  They record each response on their own paper.

Superintendent Jeremy Ledford explains that consistency throughout the district is one of the steps that will yield student success.  Recently the district aligned its curriculum so that students in elementary grade levels would be taught the same content at the same time, so if a student moves from one school to another, there is not a huge gap of lost instruction.

The same holds true for Kagan strategies, Stacy Imel, director of professional learning, shared.  Imel feels that once students become familiar with the different Kagan structures, they can easily begin them when the teacher says the name of the particular one that will be used in class.  From elementary to high school, the structures remain the same.