Kagan believes that groups of four students are optimal. Let's face it, forming good cooperative learning teams can be a chore. Not anymore! To create effective teams, we must juggle a lot of variables: We want teams of four, but must form some teams of three or five to handle "extra" students. We want two boys and two girls per team, but when we run out of balanced sex teams we want same sex teams so the solo boy or girl is not given too much or too little attention. We want a high, high-medium, low-medium, and low ability student on each team to optimize tutoring and achievement. Creating teams can be a brain-racking, time-consuming process. This can be a helpful solution without making everything from hand or buying thier useful, but expensive software.
Each group should have two boys and two girls. This isn't always possible so I do as many as I can and then make all boy or all girl teams. If there is an odd number of students in the class then there will be a group of five or sometimes two groups of three with the remaining groups having four students. I did vary this last year with a couple of students that were boys. They were non-stop off task students when with another boy so they were placed in groups of all girls. Those girls kept them in line and they definitely had better behavior to impress the ladies. (This was not a Kagan suggestion. Just something that worked for me.)
To create my groups I needed my class rosters, the list with student Civics EOC scores, a pile of these cards that I printed on cardstock and color pencils that match the colors of the groups.
On the top of the index card I placed the student's name and their Civics EOC and reading scores and if they were a second language learner. With my second language learners, I place another student who speaks the same language if possible.
Next, I placed all of the index cards in order according to math Civics EOC scores from highest to lowest. The I divided the index cards into 4 groups, HIGH, HIGH MEDIUM, LOW MEDIUM and LOW scores.
Each group has one of each level student. Take a card from each of the groups of index cards and you have your teams.
On each index card I use a colored pencil to mark the team the students are placed in. In my classroom I have different colored stars above each of the team's, yellow, green, red, purple, pink, orange, blue and salmon. By placing the colors on the index cards I can make sure that when I change groups the students aren't place with the same peers again.
When placing the students in the groups you have them seated like this:
LOW MEDIUM LOW
HIGH HIGH MEDIUM
The high student next to the low medium can help that student when they work as shoulder partners and the high medium can help the low student in their understanding. Also having students with similar levels across from each other helps them to feel comfortable with students who are closer to their levels when working as face partners. I always had these students sitting next to each other but staggered the arrangements in the groups so they couldn't figure out who was the low or high one in each team. Groups should be changed about every six weeks.
There are desks not tables in my room which works out very well. When they take assessments I have them move to rows. We practice this the first week of school. I also noticed when I lecture they didn't pay attention so now when I lecture I have them facing forward and not in groups. (I don't lecture too much but when I do this seems to work for my kids.) It will be interesting having students this year who know the Kagan structures and expectations.