Students in my self-paced blended classroom work in groups every day to complete a series of activities we call "Learning Stations." Learning Stations provide multiple ways in which my students can demonstrate mastery and build a digital portfolio of content to draw on throughout the year. By creating groups in which my students are paired up according to their supported reading and lexile levels, I foster a collaborative culture in which students don't feel singled out and high quality products can be produced by all groups. To alleviate the stress that sometimes accompanies engagement with highly targeted, rigorous activities, I allow my students to choose Station activities that most appropriately address the Learning Targets (please see the "Learning Targets" strategy video) they might struggle with or want to improve in. Reinforcing Station Expectations with explicit instructions at the beginning of each class is a strategy that ensures that my students understand what is expected of them during the period.
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.
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.
A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties the students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Ben's culture impacts student achievement!