Monthly Archives: November 2015


Well I've gone and done it. I've tried the first of three co-operative structures to encourage discussion in my FSL classroom. I've selected these from Kagan Cooperative Learning by Dr. Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Thank you to @Think_teach for pointing me in this direction!

This strategy is called "Talking chips". I've referred to it as a talking stick, version 2.0, since everyone gets 2 sticks to start. Here is a brief explanation of my use of this strategy:

  1. Students receive a maximum of 2 'chips' each.
  2. When a student talks, they put a chip in the centre of their group of desks.
  3. Students can only talk if they have a chip.
  4. No chips left? Wait until everyone has placed their chips in the centre and start again.

In my Gr. 12 class, I presented brief videos about current events, and then provided the discussion questions. I used Popsicle sticks since I didn't want coins/tokens to turn into a game of penny football. Besides, I already had them on hand.

Here is a picture of my classroom set up. Luckily the teacher I share the classroom with is very open to this arrangement. Kagan suggests that "[t]eams of four are ideal. They allow pair work, which doubles active participation, and open twice as many lines of communication compared to teams of three".

Kagan Cooperative Structures - Set-up

Student feedback was positive (1-2 thumbs up from everyone!), as they all had the chance to speak and felt that there was accountability. One student commented that he didn't know how much time they had to speak, so I've since posted an online counter to help with this:  Also, some groups ended early; I had forgotten to mention they could each take 2 sticks back and continue speaking.

Questions for reflection. Or hey, if you have any solutions, let me know...

  • If a student says a short phrase such as "I agree", is this worth a chip?
  • What about side conversations that end up occurring between two students who are already chipless, but are having a good on-task discussion?
  • How can I most efficiently set-up this structure? Maybe putting a piece of coloured paper to mark the centre where they can place their chips to let me quickly gauge how many times students have spoken? Maybe have students pick up their chips as they enter the class so that they're just ready to go with the discussion questions instead of waiting for my lead?

Have you used this structure before?

Next up: RoundRobin & RallyRobin and Simultaneous RoundTable. Not necessarily in that order. And not necessarily in my next post...




I’ve thought about what it is I want to accomplish, and at times, it seems insurmountable. For me, it’s getting my students to use their own abilities to communicate in French.

Their reality is much different than mine was at their age. With technology at their fingertips, students no longer have to spend time thumbing through massive dictionaries. It’s hard to believe I actually packed a not-so-Petit Robert into my suitcase for my studies abroad in France! The traditional green ‘Bescherelle’ has been replaced by any number of any websites, and/or merely typing in the verb into a Google search. SpellCheck quickly helps them identify all the difficult accents. These resources are a boon to students, and admittedly, I appreciate their handiness as well.

But what really, really, really gets me is the use of online translators - the blatant practice of using GoogleTranslate, the student’s expectation being that they should be able to write in English and then magically transform it into French with the touch of a button, and that these written words can be a jumping off point for oral work as well. And the technology is getting good! Years ago it was easier to spot the student who heavily relied on an online translator with its choppy nonsensical phrases. Yet today, with a 1:1 laptop program, who could possibly resist the insta-translator’s allure? might I get students to perform regularly in an authentic manner?

I have a very simple idea. I'm pretty embarrassed to admit that I don't do this (yet), because it seems so obvious. Each day, a student will be responsible for leading a discussion for the first five minutes of class. A warm-up if you will. Voilà - c'est tout.

Here are my immediate misgivings:

  • How will I assess this?
  • Will this become boring?
  • Could I make this 'count' (i.e. assessment of learning), even though it wasn't in my course outline?
  • Why isn't this in my course outline?
  • Could I test students new vocabulary from this?
  • Will my classes buy into this?
  • Do the students need to have structures in place to make this work?
  • When will I find the time?

I've given myself a deadline of trying this out a week today. I'm eager to see how it goes.

> Do you use student-led warm-ups in your classes? How so?