As I was attending my second training session on using Kagan Structures for co-operative learning and active engagement last night, it struck me how effective chunking tasks down into exactly four steps could actually be.
A lot of the structures rely on children being sat in mixed teams of four (mainly based on their attainment, but with some consideration to gender, character etc. taken into account too) - this enables:
- all the children to develop their social skills amongst people from different backgrounds and with different prior experiences;
- the less confident children to improve their understanding with the help of their peers (indeed, an article in this week's TES Pro magazine pointed out that "peer learning is one of the most reliable ways to improve attainment");
- the more confident children to clarify and consolidate their learning by sharing their knowledge with other.
ICT lessons often involve me teaching children the process of techniques which they need to follow to successfully carry out a new skill (read my blog post on this by clicking here) - for example: entering a spreadsheet formula, changing the font style of text, designing a database form or creating a computer program. Sometimes an activity might focus on practicing just one process, however as children become older and more confident, it is more likely to involve the children having to combine a variety of these processes together to create a pleasing/accurate piece of work for an audience.
Making sure that children can remember a wide variety of these processes is extremely important so I've often wanted to come up with a strategy to help them easily recount the individual techniques which make them up. Using the table matrix showed above, the idea which I have involves teaching them processes divided up into four steps so that a variety of Kagan Structures can be utilised to help them quickly recall them. These include:
- using a 'round robin' where each child takes a turn at describing one of the techniques involved;
- using a 'rally robin' where children work in pairs to take turns describing the techniques involved.
Obviously, I would do some specific whole-class teaching beforehand but these strategies could be used either just before or just after the children start working on the laptops to help make sure that everyone clearly understands what they are going to do/have done. To ensure that all the children learn all four techniques in a process, I would provide them with a little 'think time' first for them to memorise the steps and would randomly choose which child goes first (so that they don't know which technique they are going to have to talk about/explain) - such as: the child with the longest hand, shortest finger, tallest, nearest the board, oldest etc.
I believe that teaching children 'Fantastic Fours' (as I've just nicknamed them!) in this way would help them be able to better remember them and thus be able to carry them out much more independently than at present. Keeping the descriptions of steps/techniques would make them easy to understand and therefore make even the more complex of ICT processes appear quite easily do-able to them. Using Kagan Structures, meanwhile, to consolidate the understanding of the 'Fantastic Fours' would involve the participation of many more children than just direct-questioning of individual children by me stood at the front and thus help to keep much more of the class involved and engaged in the lesson.
To illustrate my idea and finish with, here's an example of a learning intention slide I trialled with Year 4 this afternoon. Note that the 'Fantastic Four' complements (not replaces) a couple of extra success criteria which I still think are useful - especially in relating the process(es) specifically to the task. For instance, the process might be how to change the alignment of text on a page and the success criteria might be things like 'center align the title' and 'left align the main body of text'.
Hopefully this idea has potential and I'd really appreciate reading any comments on what you think about it!