SMART House Rules
My co-teachers and I use a simple set of three rules to guide our blended classroom: 1. Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2. Follow directions the first time; and 3. Be prepared. The consistency of these rules is really important for middle schoolers and creates a great culture of learning in our House. We share these rules with students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.
Students rarely have the opportunity to show in an authentic what way what they have learned and what they can do with the knowledge they have obtained. To this end, it has been my philosophy to provide students with a task that requires a deeper depth of knowledge rather than traditional paper-pencil assessment. Performance task data that reflects a deeper understanding of content and tasks students to transfer their knowledge to novel situations matters most. As a school community, the transition to a competency based learning model has signaled a change in the way teachers deliver content and the way students are assessed. Independent Performance Tasks measure student learning when they are ready to assess. Similarly, leveraging the power of technology has been instrumental to making the assessment process a positive experience for students.
To take a quick pulse of the class I may do a fist to five (students hold up a fist if they had difficulties or were unable to get in synch with the rest of class to a five which means they felt successful and are ready to transition to the next station). This Likert scale type voting gives me the opportunity to be responsive to specific student needs and quickly ascertain which students need my immediate attention or which student’s work/submissions I should review. There are also times when I feel it is appropriate to hear from students and give them the opportunity to exercise their student voice. During this exercise I take both volunteers and non-volunteers to give me their “thrills and chills/roses and thorns/high and lows of the day”. I think it is important for students to see me receive critical feedback or praise and be able to appropriately respond. It is extremely powerful for students to make a suggestion on how our class should operate and see it implemented almost immediately.
Communicating and collaborating with both colleagues and students' families is crucial in a blended environment. This is especially true if a teacher is doing something that looks very different from other teachers at his school. Check out how Aaron communicates and collaborates with both his colleagues at school and his students' families and how his methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.