Rally Coach Relay

Cooperative learning offers a powerful alternative for traditional teaching—interaction!

Rally CoachKagan structures are instructional strategies designed to promote cooperation and communication in the classroom, boost students’ confidence and retain their interest in classroom interaction. And with a splash of creativity, the Rally Coach approach to collaborative work can become a high-energy relay race to produce thoughtful student examples of in-character writing – teaching point of view, dialect, and attention to detail in text evidence.

Wanna’ play? Here’s how:

The Kagan approach to the “Rally Coach” activity pairs students into two (or three) person teams. In a traditional Rally Coach activity, one student writes the answers to the question while their partner serves as the “coach,” offering tips and problem-solving suggestions as they go. Typically, students will trade roles once (x) number of questions are complete (all of the questions in a single row of addition problems, for example).

Got the basics? Rock on.

Now let’s give the core activity an #EDrenaline Rush to really change the game!

Rally Coach2
Add instant life, energy, and collaborative competition to this approach by transforming the paired activity into a team-vs-team relay race, where partners must work together by trading off roles back and forth as they make their way through a full worksheet or multi-page Google Form. As before, teammates will need to trade roles between rounds — working the way up the ladder of inference with harder questions as they go. And the first team to complete the form “wins” access to a “bonus level” (read: enrichment questions), so each team is motivated to support their teammates and complete their assignment in class before time expires.

When the “game” begins in the classroom, teachers get to serve as “referees” to make sure that teammates are helping one another and playing by the rules accordingly — reserving the right to offer on-the-fly clarification questions to groups that are particularly fast-moving to make sure the game stays competitive throughout.

And just like the #EggDashChallenge: The reward for correct answers is always harder questions.

As for question prompts? The possibilities are endless. The key is to keep the “game” easy to track which team is working on which “level” of their journey — so I’ll typically color code the questions into categories by printing on different colored paper according to their difficulty level in Bloom’s Taxonomy. So the remembering and understanding questions are color coded as “EASY” (green paper), the application and analysis questions are color coded as “MEDIUM” (yellow paper), and the questions demanding evaluation and creation are color coded as “HARD” (red paper).

Just like a stoplight: you’ve got to complete the easy before you work your way through the hard stuff.Rally Coach3

As a PS: I love cutting questions into strips and leaving them in a big old box in the front of the room for students to grab one at a time. Sometimes I’ll even throw in an electronic spinner (I love using Decide Now for iOS, but there are a ton of freebies on the web including Flippity, Wheel Decide, and Super Teacher Tools) to punch up an extra “game” like layer to the activity.

03. Spinner Games

You’re absolutely welcome to use my template as a jumping off point!

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, Laura, a high school music teacher and fellow graduate of The Catholic University of America, and a giant-sized Maine Coon cat named Jack.

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