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.
I ask Student Scouts to identify peers who demonstrate the three class standards/rules (showing respect, solving problems, and making good decisions) to reinforce the idea that good behavior is rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically. Student Scouts identify their peers who are showing these standards at various pausing points throughout the lesson and give out Literacy Awards. Pausing points are planned purposefully and serve as opportunities for students to practice monitoring and assessing their own behavior.
Students communicate nonverbally through their hands that they agree, disagree, or want to add onto what someone previously said. Just think for a minute the amount of time we as teachers stop for interruptions. This strategy shows us that there are ways to effectively communicate with each other silently.
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.