SMART House Rules
My co-teachers and I use a simple set of three rules to guide our blended classroom: 1. Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2. Follow directions the first time; and 3. Be prepared. The consistency of these rules is really important for middle schoolers and creates a great culture of learning in our House. We share these rules with students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.
In 2011, my school was awarded a grant that brought the School of One mastery-based blended learning model to MS88. School of One allows students to learn at their own pace in a totally redesigned, open classroom that can fit well over 100 students in different centers of the room. Students are assessed at the beginning of the year and given a “learning trajectory” for the entire year. Every day, each student is assigned new individualized lessons in different parts of the classroom in one of seven different learning modalities: virtual instruction/reinforcement, independent practice, small group/peer-to-peer collaboration, live investigation, and task projects. At the end of each class, we use an “exit slip” to evaluate and regroup students based on their progress. They are required to demonstrate mastery in each skill or concept before they can move onto new skills and concepts.
Number of Students: ~300 students
Number of Adults: six teachers; one Operations Technology Associate; SPED teacher(s) and/or paraprofessionals (as needed)
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 92 minutes (divided into two 36 minute sessions)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: proprietary web-based software; IXL, LearnZillion, VirtualNerd, Khan Academy, MangaHigh, Math XL, TenMarks, I Can Learn, Khan Academy, Engrade, Educreations, Padlet, Remind, Weebly, Google Apps for Education
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: student laptops (1:1), iPads for teachers, SMARTboards
Key Features: competency-based; student agency;individualized learning paths; project-based; innovative use of time; innovative use of talent; co-teaching
Even with the wealth of online resources used my classroom students are still exposed to traditional methods of instruction and organization, especially as it pertains to writing. To this end, graphic organizers are used as a way for students to do everything from capture notes to outlining a writing prompt. Students, especially those that are struggling readers often need a visual to help them organize and connect their thoughts.
My students crave independence, but they are sometimes unable to prioritize, monitor, and regulate their progress. My students are also often unable at the beginning of a school year to articulate how or where to start an assignment. This strategy is designed to give my students a model of how to manage their own workflow. Having a Workflow Guide is a good strategy to teach in Social Studies because it gives my students a step-by-step pathway to competency. This strategy is particularly well suited for middle grades because they need an increased sense of agency that allows them work independently as they prepare to transition to high school, college, and their careers.