Quick Write Summary
Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments.
Chemistry is a combination of the comprehension of scientific content and the application of mathematics to those concepts. My students have to be prepared to think deeply about difficult concepts the minute they step into my room. Starting the class with a relevant "Catalyst" helps them initiate their own thinking processes in preparation for a productive day in the same way that biological enzymes catalyze chemical reactions. During The Catalyst, I model my thinking process for how to approach a mathematical problem by having my students identify the key steps in the calculation and establish a foundation that students who struggle with math can fall back on when they're confused.
The most common answer I give students when they ask me a question is "look at your notes." The course is designed so any question in the practice problems or mastery quiz have been directly addressed on the current video lesson or a past one. Because the design of the lessons has been created with this intentionality, it's easy to refer students to the exact place in the notes they can find their answer. It's been a challenge to not jump in and immediately offer students help, and many get frustrated in the moment, but over the course of the year students develop strong independence in their learning, able to use their notes, peers, and online resources to find the answer they were looking for.
My blended classroom is based on the Flipped Mastery model (please see the "Introduction to Mastery Based Learning" strategy video). When my students think that they have mastered the skills and concepts in a particular lesson, they show their completed notes to me or my co-teacher and get a Mastery Quiz. Students then head to the Mastery Zone, which is a section of the classroom reserved for students taking Mastery Quizzes and Level Tests. There is no talking in the Mastery Zone and the only technology permitted is a calculator. If they achieve at an 80% or higher rate, students move forward in the curriculum. If not, they review the concepts and materials in the lesson and re-take the Mastery Quiz in the Mastery Zone when they are ready. The Mastery Zone assessment strategy is a concept I adapted from the Algebros Flipped Mastery program.