ONeil 4417-111-1

These effective learning structures will engage all kinds of learners in your classroom.


Anytime you’re asked to implement something new as a teacher, it evokes some level of discomfort. And when it comes to releasing control, you might even feel like you’re watching your discomfort compound and morph into fear before your eyes.

We all know how important it is to be able to manage the myriad variables at play inside a well-run classroom. Cooperative learning structures ask for a degree of release of that control. Students are tasked with handling a portion of their own learning. They must rely on themselves and one another for what you’ve provided for so long: new learning.

You don’t achieve this by simply saying, “OK, teach each other.” However, it also doesn’t take hours of extra planning. By creating some structure for this cooperative learning to occur, even those most hesitant to try these structures can reap the benefits of shifting responsibility.

What exactly are cooperative learning structures?

Cooperative learning structures are essentially grouping strategies on steroids. They are structured activities that facilitate academic and social learning opportunities. They shift the dependence on the teacher to disseminate information, and create an interdependence amongst peers to gather, understand, and manipulate knowledge.

Why should I use them?

Many of the benefits of cooperative learning structures are apparent in the definition: they allow for multiple types of learning, add a social component to learning, encourage problem solving and collaboration, and increase engagement by shifting responsibility. A well-planned cooperative learning structure will also add a kinetic element to the school day so students aren’t stuck in their seats daydreaming all day.

Structures to try this week:

  1. Think, Jot, Pair, Share
  • Task students with a subjective question, one that doesn’t have a single correct answer. Ask students to think about this question and formulate their own answer.
  • Have students jot down their answer. This step is often skipped in this structure, but the addition of it helps your introverted learners later in the activity, and also adds an element of accountability.
  • Pair students up and have them discuss their answers.
  • Call on students to share what their partner(s) discussed with them. This step ensures that students are listening and learning during their conversations.
  1.  Four Corners
  • Assign a label to each of the four corners of your classroom. This can be levels of agreement/disagreement; A, B, C, or D; or something more creative.
  • As you pose questions, students walk to the corner that represents their answer. This engages your kinesthetic learners and gets students moving.
  • Call on students to explain why they have chosen the corner they’re in.
  1. Fold the Line
  • Ask students to leave their seats and form a line in the back of the classroom.
  • Give students a question or topic to answer.
  • Fold the line directly in half so that each student is paired with another student in the line. The first student will be paired with the last, and so on.
  • Ask students to discuss and justify their answers with their partner. Call on individuals in the line to share what their partner shared with them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *