During small group, I am able to give individualized feedback to my students. I want small group to be a safe place where my students can share, ask questions, and be able to learn content and skills authentically. This also gives me the opportunity to clarify misconceptions, to reinforce key learnings by giving my students one-on-one attention and support.
Initially, the writing product was the major focus in my classroom. I noticed the products overall were not meeting grade level standards. Therefore the focus shifted to the writing process and doing each part of the process well. Giving students the opportunity to choose not only the place but also the pace at which they complete a prompt significantly changed the learning outcomes and products. A self-paced writing prompts give students the option to choose the order in which they will complete the writing prompts assigned for a unit of study. Making the writing prompts self-paced also gives students the freedom and latitude to simultaneously grapple with content and the writing process to produce a quality product.
At the beginning of each Independent Learning Zone class session, I do a quick review of Independent Learning Zone Expectations. This strategy encourages the whole class to come together as a community with common expectations in mind before students begin working independently for the remainder of the class.
The core ideas of my classroom are big ideas and themes that run through almost every lesson I teach. They are good math values, work values, life values. Whenever they come up during a lesson, I always explicitly make the connection. Next year, I plan on using a graphic for each value (some kind of eye graphic for core idea #1) to show, in my lessons, where the ideas come up.