Beth Helps Puts Our ‘Head’s Together’ on Cooperative Learning

3 reasons you might be ready to bring cooperative learning to your class:

  1. Your questions are always answered by the same three kids who raise their hands. When you use a cooperative learning structure, at least 50% of your students are sharing answers at the same time. They also give students opportunity for think time so more students might feel ready to answer.
  2. The quiet or less confident kids never raise their hands so you don’t really have a feel for their strengths and vulnerabilities. Structures provide safe opportunities for students who don’t know the answers to learn from others and become experts as they go. The quiet students can share with partners or small groups, making it a safer place to try.
  3. You feel tired at the end of the class because you did most of the talking. Instead of you talking the whole time, you get a chance to walk around, check for understanding and coach as needed.

At the very bottom of this post, there is a video of Beth D., our resident cooperative learning expert, teaching a structure to her 2nd grade class, called “Head’s together.” Here are the steps for this structure. Underneath is the PDF you can print!screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-19-39-am

Click here to print the full PDF of “Head’s Together” steps

This can work for checking for understanding, but it is also a great way to have discussions and debates. Discussion questions can start in small groups and representatives from each group can share topics and arguments discussed. A quick way to do this is to assign each student at a table group a number. So, each table group has a #1, a #2 and so on. After students put their head’s together, announce the number that is sharing at each table: “Number twos, please stand behind your chair and share what your group discussed one-at-a-time.” Representatives are forced to summarize the group discussion, share varying opinions, and compromise on agreed-upon decisions.

When you watch Beth’s video, you will notice that she practiced this structure with very easy questions. Once students know the structure, you will be able to quickly access it without any prep ahead of time and use it for more complex activities.

Final words: If you try a structure, and it fails, please try again. These structures are so great for your students. It will take some practice and a few fails at first to figure out the management of it. Beth and I can help you if you want to talk through a structure or want us to come do it with you! We also have many of the Kagan books if you want to see more examples and go further with your structure practice.

Turn Any Worksheet into a Game

“Find Someone Who”

A great cooperative learning structure for turning the mundane into a game that gets students talking, learning and out of their seats!

I hate going over the syllabus with my students. I find it boring and it requires a lot of talking from me and inactive listening from my students.  In the end, my students still ask me questions throughout the year I explicitly answered in my syllabus. Therefore, I decided last year to scrap that from the first or second day of class.

Instead, I told the kids to go home and read the syllabus with their parents. I announced that the following day we will play a game and it will really help them in the game if they knew the syllabus.

I took the most important things in my syllabus and made a simple fill-in-the-blank worksheet. Under each question, I left a space for the answer and a signature.

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 Click Here to See the Full Worksheet

The next day, I gave students three minutes to study the syllabus in their table groups. I announced that the game will be played as individuals and not as a team (although this could be easily modified to allow for pairs) and therefore each student needs to be an expert on the syllabus. When I said “Go!” students walked around finding others who knew the answers to the questions. Each person was only  allowed to answer and sign each paper once, including their own. Since there were 13 questions, students had to talk to at least 12 other classmates. They became experts on many questions as the worksheets began filling up with signatures and they were forced to answer new questions.

The first student to get 13 answers and signatures ended the game. The winners were the students who got the most right answers. Therefore, students who hadn’t finished still had a chance to win. As we went through the answers as a class, I clarified things in my syllabus and left time for questions. I have never seen the kids have so much fun learning about a syllabus! 6th grader, Samuel S. approached me at the end of class and asked, “Are we going to do more fun games like that in history?” #win

This can be used for ANY worksheet! Ask Beth who used this structure throughout the year with her 2nd graders! If you would like to watch me give directions  for this game to my 6th graders, click on the video below.

Things I learned from video-taping myself:

  • I am very animated and talk quite slowly. (I am not sure yet if this is a good thing)
  • I need to stand up straight. 🙂

Cooperative Learning structures are so amazing. To get one-on-one help with integrating structures in your classroom see Beth, our resident expert, or me for help!