Mild, Medium & Spicy Groups
I group my students into three proficiency groups - Mild, Medium, and Spicy. This is a system of general differentiation that allows me to easily assign practice or even homework. Students know their level and know that the assigned practice is likely best for them. Their level is also assigned to them based on various factors, including benchmark assessments, formative assessments, and informal observations made in class on a daily basis. I encourage my students to challenge themselves to try a "spicier" level when they're ready. This gives students the flexibility to try harder material and excel at an appropriate and personalized pace.
At the end of the lesson, when it comes time to practice, my students find themselves at varying levels of success with the material. Some of my students have mastered material, while others need more guidance. I teach my students how to use Robert Marzano's scale of self-assessment, which allows them to rate their level of need. In our class, each level of the scale corresponds to a mode of practice, including teacher guidance, peer tutoring, online practice, and enrichment.
Workshop is a powerful strategy that provides my students with a degree of choice in how they learn the content in my blended learning classroom. It is also a method of holding them accountable for their choices. I believe that it's important for my students to learn how to manage their time and how to evaluate their learning options so that they can grow closer to taking charge of their own education. Each day, student groups receive "tallies"--ratings for moving quickly, making smooth transitions, and employing responses that feature academic vocabulary and professionalism. I use these tallies to determine the order in which student groups select their blended learning stations on the following day.
At the end of each class period, we spend time celebrating the soft skills students exhibited throughout class. Rather than focusing on academic achievements such as tests, we shout out students who show our core values, such as persistence, responsibility, or empathy. This way students get a chance to recognize one another for their support throught class. This ritual also positively reinforces these values, as students feel successful when they get a shout out.