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Over the past two years, our school hosted multiple Kagan workshops. If you’re not familiar with Kagan, visit their website to learn more about these great student-centered structures. Their emphasis on collaboration is awesome! In addition to genius strategies, Kagan also has some amazing and original products. These are my top three that I would recommend to any teacher in a heartbeat!
A Product I Use Every Day: Timer Tools
I know what you’re thinking: really? A timer? I am well aware that there are all kinds of websites that can be used to display time, but the Kagan Timer Tools are unrivaled. It includes timers you never knew you needed until they were available! Having this program on my desktop, always ready to go, means that I use it every single day in my classroom.
Teachers know that time is money.
I use Timer Tools to keep my students (and myself!) on track. For example, it’s easy to let the minutes slide away during bell work–the kids are working quietly, and you’re taking attendance and checking email, and the next thing you know, 10 minutes turned into 23 minutes. Oops.
So, I usually put 10 minutes and 30 seconds on the hourglass timer for journals, and I set it to start just as students are walking in to class. Seeing the timer already ticking down creates a greater sense of urgency to grab their journals and sit down to begin, even if I’ve already accounted for that extra time for them to settle down.
As an ELA teacher, I’m always having my students discuss in groups. My other favorite timer is the interval timer, which allows me to set a certain amount of time for each turn that a student takes. This helps to keep students accountable for taking turns, and my chatty students are limited while quieter students have an opportunity to speak up. The timer acts as a visual cue with its bright colors, and transitions run much more smoothly.
I got the Timer Tools for free during a Kagan training, but the program is worth the $29. Whenever I’m at a Kagan workshop, it’s always the first product I recommend to the teachers running the shop to get as their freebie!
What’s great is that there are 12 different timer options, and the window for the timer can be adjusted for size and easily overlap a Power Point presentation, or used full-screen. It also includes a digital and analog clock option which is awesome during testing season, trust me! It’s easy to install (on up to three computers) and easy to use, so it’s literally something that can improve your classroom’s time management for less than $30 dollars.
A Product I Use Weekly: Selector Tools
The other day, I noticed I had slipped into that funk where I’m calling on the same students. So, I pulled up my Selector Tools (very similar in design to Timer Tools) and quickly added all of my student’s names into the Name Selector option, set to random no repeat. Within a few minutes, I didn’t have to think about who I’d called on anymore and let this program do the work for me. You can see from the image below that there are a variety of options to choose from!
While I don’t use this as frequently as Timer Tools, I do use it regularly. It keeps me accountable and prevents me from over-relying on certain students to pull the weight of class participation. Even though it’s probably cheaper to write all my students’ names on popsicle sticks, this is a better long-term solution… and it doesn’t take up space on my teacher cart! The students love guessing whose name will pop up on the screen next!
I’ve found that the students are more willing to participate when called on because they know it’s random, and that they’re not being singled out by me.
If you have students seated in groups, this selector tool is perfect for your classroom. Even though this spinner may look a bit weird to you, each layer in the circle has a different number of groups represented. For example, if there are six or seven groups, the spinner selected group 4. If there are eight or nine groups, it selected group 5.
There is also a spinner option that selects one individuals within every group (if you want person 3 from every group to get the supplies for their table), or even one individual from a specific group (i.e., person 2 from group 4 to give an answer).
A Product I Keep in My Back Pocket: Switchboards
I’ll admit, I don’t use my Switchboards nearly enough–and I love them. This is the perfect product to keep stashed away and to bring out when you need to bring up the energy level or to add a twist on an otherwise dull review. My students always perk up when they see the Switchboards and are pretty willing to do anything I ask–even if it’s to practice Independent and Dependent Clauses.
Many teachers use small whiteboards for students to write responses on and hold up. Switchboards are the same concept, except that they are basically big envelopes made out of durable plastic. You can use any of the provided templates inside (just switch the one needed to the top) such as grids, lines, diagrams, and multiple choice A, B, C, D options. You can even use your own worksheets!
Unlike whiteboards, these boards clean up beautifully. I just keep a bunch of black Expo markers in a bin and give each group a paper towel to erase their answers with. I love that this product has the teacher in mind, since the possible uses are endless. (Kagan also sells less expensive Answer Boards, but those just have a grid on one sideand lines on the other, albeit sturdy with quality lamination. Spend a little more to get the Switchboards and you won’t be sorry.)
I started out with just a pack of eight for team activities, but recently got two more packs for a total of 24 boards! I look forward to experimenting with using Switchboards with every student.
Kagan: Highly Recommended
Kagan features dozens of products, and anything in the catalog will be high-quality, durable and worth the investment. Even though I’ve experimented with a variety of their products (like Talking Chips and books), these three are the ones I rely on most and have directly improved my teaching.