Council for Character Development
Every Friday we meet to discuss a topic around character development and 21st century skills. This is a vital classroom practice in my class. Because blended learning is so high paced and intense, students need support as not only learners but people as well. Students transition from their seats to prepare to watch videos or form a circle around the perimeter of our carpet. Our council pieces are brought out. Council pieces are small items that both the students and I have brought which hold major meaning to us. Once we meet, the only person who can speak is the one holding the council piece. We begin by making a dedication to someone in our life or someone we have beeng thinking about. At the end of the dedications, we begin our council. The talking piece is passed around and all students share their thoughts or may pass. Sometimes we will bring an on-demand journal to share, or students may respond to a posed question.
One of the most powerful benefits of my school's blended learning model is the amount of time it creates for me to work individually with my students on their literacy development. One strategy I use often is a Writer's Workshop Conference, which consists of my having a targeted conversation with each student during which I am able to give feedback about his or her writing. I work hard at the beginning of the year to establish a classroom culture in which all students, regardless of the activity they are involved with at any given moment, understand how important it is that I be able to provide focused, uninterrupted support to each of them. This makes it possible for me to focus on one student's writing for three to five minutes every day while other students are working individually or in small groups.
KWS stands for what we Know, Want to know, and how might we Solve a word problem. The KWS Chart is a catalyst that gets my students to organize and analyze complex word problems. My students are more successful with word problems when they have a toolkit for simplifying the complex information often found within word problems. This tool is an essential scaffold for English Language Learners in my class. The strategy is also great to uncover with my students the fact that there are multiple ways of solving a problem, no matter how complex it may be, and often times there may be multiple routes to a solution.
Observation charts are a type of inquiry chart that stimulate students’ curiosity. They build background information while providing teachers with a diagnostic tool. And they provide opportunities for language support from peers. During an observation chart, I use real pictures or paintings attached to white poster paper or butcher paper that contain a theme (e.g., food from a culture, ways of transportation, games a culture plays, etc.). My students walk around from observation chart to observation chart and write down either a question they're wondering about, a comment they'd like to make, or just an observation (i.e., statement of fact).