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).
Many teachers--myself included--utilize a version of the Think Pair Share strategy to give students opportunities for social learning and to build a culture of classroom community that includes respectful academic discourse. I use the Main Idea Think Pair Share strategy to ensure that my students are able to identify and articulate the main ideas of texts we are reading, which is one of the most foundational literacy skills that all effective readers must develop. I find that it can be helpful to use scaffolds like sentence stems and a variety of starting approaches (e.g., "the student with the longest hair speaks first") to ensure that this strategy remains fresh and accessible to my students, many of whom are English Language Learners.
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.
In the Heads Together strategy, my students huddle in pre-determined teams at the beginning or end of a lesson to discuss a question, give each other advice, or decide on a response collaboratively. I use this quick strategy to give my students consistent opportunities to engage in productive group work throughout each class period.