Academic Culture

Brain Power

Brain Power is a strategy my students and I use to promote a classroom culture of risk-taking, resilience, and collaboration. Early in the year, I teach my students to wiggle their fingers towards their peers who are thinking of an answer or trying to correct an incorrect response. This strategy creates wait time and encourages my students to continue their thinking process without giving up.

Strategy Resources (2)
Students In Action
Strategy Explanation
This is a list of some other movements that we utilize in class to build joy and success in our room.
Students In Action
Strategy Explanation
This is a list of some other movements that we utilize in class to build joy and success in our room.
Daniel Utset-Guerrero
Holmes Elementary School
Miami, FL


About this strategy

Prep Time:
Fifth grade
Similar Strategies
Academic Culture

The neighborhood where my students come from can be full of negativity. My students need to learn how to support each other and accept the mistakes that come with the natural process of learning. Synergy is a strategy that is a core element of my blended model; it defines and reinforces the behaviors that successful teams use to work together to overcome a problem. Synergy has four basic expectations: 1) Push each other's thinking; 2) Share the load; 3) Use Accountable Talk; and 4) Move with speed. I use these expectations in a quick evaluation of each group every time we do group work, and the "winning group" receives a small prize, which reinforces my academic and social expectations and incentivizes friendly competition.

Whole-Group Instruction
Rapid Fire

Sometimes the only thing holding students back is practice time. It's amazing how much they can get done when they get themselves into a work frenzy. During Rapid Fire, we create a "controlled crazy" by playing techno music while students work in pairs to solve as many computation problems as possible in five minutes. This is a great strategy to use before taking the lesson to word problems, and provides a break from sitting quietly and attentively during the lesson. There is also always an element of choice in what the students want to focus on, helping them to adjust their self-evaluation for later on.

Routines and Procedures
Camp Dollars

Camp Dollars is an incentive system created to motivate the class to work as a team towards certain goals. For example, this strategy allows the class to work towards "funding" our 2 big trips in the year - science camp and our end of the year sailing trip. Though my students are not earning actual dollars, they work together to meet our academic and cultural expectations in order to "fundraise" towards our end goal. Because the class earns Camp Dollars based on how we perform, the system allows for continuous reflection and feedback around our everyday activities.

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