LEESVILLE, La. - Two Vernon Parish School District teachers, Nichole Williams and Jennelle Bryan of Pickering Elementary School, recently attended a Kagan School Trainer certification training in Orlando, Florida, to be able to teach the collaborative teaching method to other educators in the district.
"We came together to learn how we can teach the Kagan structures to people at our schools," Bryan said.
Kagan is a teaching method focused on engagement. It is composed of unique structures, including:
- RallyRobin - Students take turns coming up with brief oral responses.
- Timed Pair Share -Classmates work in pairs, in a predetermined time, to share what they have learned.
- RoundRobin - Students take turns responding to questions orally.
- RallyCoach - Students alternate with one solving a problem, while the other coaches.
- Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up - Students stand, put their hand up and find a classmate to share or discuss the lesson.
The structures are meant to tap into class building, team building, social skills, communication skills, decision making, knowledge building, procedure learning, thinking skills and presenting information.
"We are using the structures to engage the students," Bryan said. "They are actively participating in content, and having fun while doing it."
Through Kagan, Williams feels like her classroom has completely evolved.
"It doesn't look like the traditional classroom at all because it looks like 75 percent of the time the kids are talking and the other 25 percent is me," Williams said. "They're learning and verbalizing and then me, as the teacher, can hear if they are learning it or not getting it. Then I can take from there, 'Do I need to teach this more? Do I not? How much do they know?' It helps a lot."
Williams and Bryan were part of the group of 40 educators selected from across the country for the training, and were two of the three chosen from Louisiana. They were nominated for the opportunity by the principal of their school, and completed a thorough application process of lesson plans, videos and written reflections for selection.
"We were over the moon excited to be chosen for the training," Williams said.
"I was very excited because I feel like Kagan has definitely changed the way I presented material to my students," Bryan added. "When I reflect on what it is about my class that they enjoy, I really think it's because we use the Kagan structures and they are able to talk and have fun while learning."
The five-day training consisted of presentations on the different Kagan structures - why each one is important and how to present them, as well as cooperative learning - within the context of teaching it to other teachers.
"The first few days were an overload of information," Williams said. "Then it started to soak in, and it was like, 'I can do amazing things now in my school.'"
With this certification, Bryan is eager to start teaching the Kagan method to other teachers at her school so it is adopted in more and more classrooms.
"Now, we will have that opportunity to get to the teachers, and teach them these structures that will completely transform their classrooms," Bryan said.
Williams hopes to have a professional development day with new teachers to Vernon Parish School District to train them in the Kagan structures, as well as refresher lessons for returning teachers.
By bringing Kagan to more Vernon Parish teachers, Williams and Bryan hope to make the engaging learning experience more accessible to students.
"I want for the students to love every second of school because they are engaged, so that they are not sitting there bored because the teacher won't call on them," Bryan said. "This will hopefully be able to close some of the achievement gaps since students are not only actively participating, but also actually learning content and retaining it."
Bryan believes this will be especially beneficial to the military kids attending schools in the parish.
"Being from a military family myself, whenever we moved to a new place, I was always shy and reserved," Bryan said. "I think bringing Kagan in my classroom will help those kids who are like me to break out of their shell."
Looking to the future, Williams sees this being a critical turning point in the education of Vernon Parish students.
"It's wonderful," Williams said. "Students will each have a turn. They will each have a voice. They will be engaged."