What Are Cooperative Learning Strategies

Cooperative Learning Strategies Are Often Referred to As “Kagan Structures” or Kagan Strategies

Cooperative Learning Strategies are easy to use in the classroom and really help increase student engagement, student accountability, and decreases classroom management challenges. I am a huge fan of Kagan Structures. I was fortunate enough to worked in a district that brought in a trainer for two full days to teach structures and how they work and practice the use of them. Below I will explain just a few that I use often in my classes. Please realize there are so many more, these few are just the ones I use a lot. For more Kagan Structures, check out the Kagan Structures manual. Cooperative Learning Strategies are based off the idea that students are pairing up in two’s and grouped in four’s. I do have some groups that are in five’s, but if I can have them pair up three and two. If you are a complete beginner of Kagan structures, I recommend you go online and youtube these structures, there are many shown to you and how they work in the classroom.


Sage-N-Scribe structure is great to use for Cooperative Learning Strategies for multiple grade levels. I use this for reading activities or question and answer reviews. If you have an article or some chunk of reading that students can pair up to do, then partner A will tell partner B what to write for the answer for the first question. Each question partners switch roles. The key is that the partner answering the question is not the one writing the answer, this will allow students to use communication skills and the writer to use listening skills. Writing partners will agree to the answer, if they disagree, it is a “coaching” technique to discuss reasons of disagreement and find the right answer. The one teaching note to make is that it must be taught that only one writes at a time, and if writer disagrees, they use respectful words not “you’re wrong you idiot”! Respect is by far the necessary character trait to speak about. Both partners names are on the paper, so both partners will agree to the answers to be graded.

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Inside Outside Circle (Lines)

Inside Outside Circle structure is another of the Cooperative Learning Strategies to use to allow students to get up and move while learning. Many of us teachers have a hard time sitting during professional development for an hour, yet we expect students to sit for six hours a day if not longer. This structure is easy to use. I use it by giving students pre-made cards of questions or vocabulary with questions or terms on front and answers on back. Each student shares their question side to the person in front of them and they take turns asking and answering. Communication skills are being used, which is essential for all learners but helpful for English language learners. If you don’t have the space in your room for one big inside outside circle, you can use lines or smaller circles. The key is when students finish sharing their cards, they trade, and the inside or outside, but only one, is told to move two to four spaces to one direction, creating a new partnership. I enjoy this structure more for the fact that students are moving, learning and communicating. Give it a try.

Cooperative Learning Strategies inside outside circle
Inside Outside Circle

Jot Thoughts

Jot Thoughts structure is about brainstorming or coming up with many ideas or answers. Students have sticky notes available with pencils. The teacher poses a question or topic that the students will come up with as many ideas as possible taking turns and not repeating by writing them down on the papers and putting down in the middle of the table as they say them to their group. At the end of this, I like to have each group share out their ideas as they put on a main board for all to see. Not repeating any will keep this moving faster. If your class is brainstorming ideas or hypothesis to why something happens for science, or for reading materials that have many ways to interpret this would work very well. This too can be used as an ice breaker at the beginning of the year or any time a new group is formed to learn more about peers. I really like this structure, I hope you will too.

Cooperative Learning Strategies jot thoughts
Jot Thoughts Cooperative Learning Strategies


Timed-Pair-Share Cooperative Learning Strategies are something many of us educators use intuitively, we just never knew someone named it and put into a book. When you partner up and share ideas students are held accountable. If you don’t use a time to it then sometimes more than not, someone does not get time to share. If you have partner A, share out first for one minute, then partner B for one minute, then both share and both get the equal timeframe to do so. Communication skills again are being practiced, listening and speaking skills necessary by all students but very helpful for ELLs. I use this structure for just about everything every day. My reading, science, and intervention classes use daily. This is a structure that if you don’t try any other, this one is the keeper. If you want your student engagement to increase use this structure, if you want a better evaluation score during your observations, use this structure.

Cooperative Learning Strategies timed pair share
Timed Pair Share Cooperative Learning Strategies

Stand up Hand up Pair up

This is one of my favorite structures to use of Kagan’s. I use this with my Quiz Quiz Trade structure too. They both go hand and hand. If you create pre-made cards where you have questions and answers or vocabulary terms and definitions you can have students use this structure to find partners, use their cards to ask each other a question, trade cards and move to the next partner. The only real difference between this structure and Quiz Quiz Trade is that you can use Stand up Hand up Pair up to partner up for anything, QQT, is used with pre-made cards. Both of these are useful for the fact it gets kids up out of their seat and moving! Kinesthetic learners absolutely benefit from  this as well as any other kid that likes to just move around to not stay stagnent. I love love love this structure. I ended with this one because it is my favorite. I have every unit of vocabulary pre-made just to use for Quiz Quiz Trade. I also created review questions and answers for unit exams, benchmarks, and state exam review. This is the best structure combo. Hannah Bledsoe has a great poster that shows these two structures together.

Kagan Structures are a lifesaver!

As any great teacher knows, tools to enhance learning and to manage students in the classroom are priceless. Each structure mentioned above has helped my classes out for learning tough science material, for learning to communicate better in the classroom with peers and to respect the differences of others and benefit from different perspectives of others. Classroom management is a piece of cake when students are engaged, learning and enjoying the process of learning. I hope this article has helped you learn something to take into your classroom. Comments are always welcome, please leave one. Share with your friends that may benefit from these instructions.