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.
Council is a time for my students to share their highs and lows related to academics, and to share what's successful and struggling for them in the class. It is a non-hierarchical forum for discussion. This is important in my classroom because it gives us a powerful practice to understand more fully and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions of our classroom. It is a process that continually evolves with each group and in each time in our own developments.
Color Teams are teams that students form themselves within the rotation groups that I have created. Students usually work in their Color Teams when we conduct a group task. When students are working in their teams, I encourage them to use academic discourse and math vocabulary words. Given that students spend a significant amount of time working independently on digital content in my blended classroom, Color Teams are an important structure to foster productive group work among my students.