Teachers need feedback from their students constantly to make good decisions. One way I check what my students brains are doing is through Post it Power. This strategy involves students writing an answer to either a reflective question or math problem that will illuminate their understanding. Using this information, I get a powerful, visual snapshot of the class that helps me to make decisions about the following days' lesson.
Mad Minute is a fast-paced math fact practice strategy that our class does every day as our "Do Now." My students get one minute to finish as many problems as they can, working towards getting the highest number of consecutive problems correct. As my students work on Mad Minute more and more, they improve their accuracy and speed. We also focus on improvement rather than overall score, celebrating students who get higher scores towards the end of the week.
Stamina captains track stamina among students at their table throughout independent work. Especially while working on differentiated or individualized practice, students may feel "alone" in their work and thus easily get distracted (whereas they might feel more pressure if all students are working on the same exact practice). Thus, through emphasizing the skill of stamina, students constantly think about their level of focus and ability to avoid distractions. When students begin discussing something that is off-topic, the stamina captain will write down their name on a post-it. After that, those students get a chance to "fix" their behavior by getting back on task. If their stamina is not fixed, they then get a phone call home as a consequence for their lack of focus. Through this closed loop, parents and students understand their focus and work at school.
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.