ROCK FALLS – At East Coloma-Nelson Elementary School, strategies to increase student participation and a building-wide focus on reading continue to be a winning formula.
EC-N was recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2021 for significant increases in students’ English language arts scores due to a building-wide emphasis on reading instruction.
When students are retaining significantly more information, I believe these structures help clarify concepts and ideas through discussions within groups more than instructor-led discussions. These structures take more planning time but are worth 100% student engagement.”— Lisa Brininger, third-grade teacher at East Coloma-Nelson
The school also increased student engagement using various new strategies known as Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures.
Kagan focuses on instructional strategies for teachers that get students to engage with the curriculum and each other. Students work in small groups or pairs to solve problems, review material and support one another. It also helps close the gap between high- and low-performing students.
“Our principal has done a great job adding student engagement activities for teachers within their classroom using Kagan so that students are not just sitting back at their desk getting fed all this information but are active participants in the learning,” EC-N Superintendent Christopher Lensing said.
Lisa Brininger, a third-grade teacher at EC-N, has been using Kagan strategies such as 4-Corners and Think-Pair-Share to develop her students’ critical thinking and social interaction skills.
Think-Pair-Share poses a problem and then gives students time to think alone. Next, students work in pairs to discuss or solve the problem and share their process with the class.
Brininger has incorporated this strategy across the curriculum.
4-Corners is an active critical thinking and socialization exercise where a topic such as favorite food, music or hobby is given. Multiple answers are available, with one response in each corner of the room. Next, students make their selections and stand in the corresponding corner. Finally, each corner discusses their answer with each other and the rest of the class using Think-Pair-Share.
“When students are retaining significantly more information, I believe these structures help clarify concepts and ideas through discussions within groups more than instructor-led discussions. These structures take more planning time but are worth 100% student engagement,” Brininger said. “When my students benefit from Kagan learning, so do I. It’s a win-win situation. What inspires my students to learn inspires me.”
EC-N has kept class sizes smaller to give students more individualized attention and has even brought on an instructional coach to the school district who works with teachers to help transition and bridge the gap between Kagan curriculum and applying the content.