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Academic Culture

Classroom management strategies that encourage student engagement and success

A well-managed classroom and positive academic culture promote student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Our blended master teachers share the proven strategies and tools they use for classroom management to create an environment that promotes collaboration and learning.
 
40 strategies
Academic Culture
Classcraft
Improve classroom management through gamification

Classcraft is team-based, role-play gamification tool that I use for classroom management. It focuses students to self-manage their learning, stay on task, and positively collaborate with their peers. When students are seen positively collaborating, working hard, or helping another student, they earn "experience points" (XP), which allow them to "level-up" and gain "powers" (ability to buy privileges in class). However, if they are distracting other students, not following classroom rules, or negatively impacting the learning of themselves or peers they are deducted health points (HP). If they lose all of their HP, they "fail in battle," which means that a random student-generated consequence is then assigned to the student. The fall in battle causes each student on that individual's team to lose HP and face greater risk of also falling in battle. The sequence continues until either all teammates fall to battle or someone on the team has enough HP to survive. Besides HP, students earn 4 action points (AP) every day. Action points allow students to purchase privileges if they have "learned" a power. The AP allow students to ask the Game Master if a question is correct on a quiz, to automatically advance within a level, or to "teleport" to their locker or the bathroom. AP, HP, and XP can all be impacted by the "Daily Event." The Daily Event is a random event that impacts the game in a positive or negative manner. For instance, the event may give the person with the least experience points 200 XP in the game or it may deduct 15 HP from a random player. We never know what will happen, which is what makes the game so interesting to most students. After using the game for nearly two school years, I have seen my students interacting more positively with one another and accomplishing more in class. It has been an awesome addition to our classroom culture and very easy to implement!

 
Academic Culture
Gamification
Motivating students to improve behavior and engage in self-directed learning

Gamification is the process of adding game elements to an environment that is not traditionally a game. I use Gamification as a strategy in my blended learning classroom to motivate my ninth grade students to engage in the curriculum and to buy in to my social and behavioral expectations--all while keeping learning fun! We have two games going on in our classroom---our academic game and our behavioral game. Our academic game is based around the storyline of the Isle of Nosredna and features an island-based theme with a leaderboard ranking based on students' engagement in our self-paced learning environment. Our behavioral game, using the Classcraft online tool, is based on health points, experience points, battles, and powers. Students work as teams to keep each other "alive" and progressing in both games.  

 
Academic Culture
Leaderboard
Recognize academic and behavioral progress in an integrated leaderboard

The leaderboard is a display of both academic and behavioral progress for my students. The results are tabulated separately in the academic and behavioral games. In the academic game, the focus is on the experience points earned by students in academic activities. Experience points in the academic game are only awarded to students once they have mastered an activity. Once they have mastered the activity, points are added to the leaderboard. We review the academic leaderboard and recognize individuals who have made it to the top or who have made significant progress in the class. For the leaderboard in the behavior game, I use Classcraft to display students' points. This display can be sorted by experience points, health points, or action points depending on what is the required view. From my experience, the two leaderboards help steer a cooperative sense of competition among a lot of my students. It also motivates them to continue learning and sharing. Although much of this is external motivation at the beginning of the year, I see a shift towards internal motivation in regards to behavior and academic progress as the year continues. Students are much more willing to learn for learning's sake instead of a prize or written/verbal recognition as they become more accustomed to these behavior and academic qualities. The academic leaderboard displays the rankings of students in all three of my earth science classes. The behavior game on Classcraft is solely based on the students in that particular period.

 
Academic Culture
Storyline
A roboust storyline is essential for immersive gamification

The storyline of our academic game gives meaning to the students' presence in the game. It enhances the importance of the curriculum and gives students a goal to work toward. The theme our storyline is based around is a deserted island. In the game, students are elite plane crash survivors (PCSs) who must learn to live on the island after not being rescued. Throughout the levels, students are asked to build fire, build shelter, find food, filter water, and survive unexpected storms. By mastering each level, students complete the tasks and move onto the next scenario in the game. 

 
Academic Culture
Connect STEM with Social Issues
Students engage deeply when STEM lessons connect with social issues

Students want to feel that the work they are doing is meaningful, and in some way connected to their lives. I motivate my students to invest in my class by using Social Issue Openings to tie the day’s content to current events, social justice issues, or health related chemistry. For example, during our unit on Gas Laws, we talk about how the same principles that help bread rise and make popcorn pop contribute to air pollution and global warming. I’ve found that focusing on issues in science regarding race, class, and gender – subjects my students care deeply about – adds meaning to the work, and frames learning and achieving as part of a larger movement. This year, the conversation has largely revolved around increasing female representation in the STEM career fields, and I hope to continue using real-world examples to drive investment in my class.

 
Academic Culture
Class Dojo Points
Amplify Class Dojo points incentives with a classroom economy

Dojo Dollars is the name given to the online class economy powered by ClassDojo. ClassDojo.com is a free, online management system where students can recieve points or deductions for classroom actions. Students' Class Dojo points become Dojo Dollars they can spend for supplies, class time and special activities in this great example of a classroom economy. I have fused this with my Pillars of Power as well as class expectations like move with speed and the use of Synergy in collaboration. As students earn points, they transfer to Dojo Dollars on Friday. They can spend their money at the store to buy nerdy things, or buy class time to do other activities that they are interested in. The system allows me to have an accurate picture of class behavior, while making it easy to focus on the positive behaviors I see. The easy parent communication and messaging features also allow for quick, seamless communication.

 
Academic Culture
Class Dojo for Behavior Management
Improving student behavior in an urban 5th grade math classroom

ClassDojo is a free behavior tracking system. I use it everyday to give students feedback on how they're meeting academic and behavioral expectations. As students are given postiive points or "needs work" points, a sound beeps and the entire class hears and sees that a student is being given feedback. Just as with behavior narration, students become more aware about their personal behaviors, following the expectations as they see them reiterated through behavior points. Their scores carry through with them to each class, culminating in a report at the end of the day that goes home to the students' parents. This allows parents to stay in the loop with how students are working and behaving at school. 

 
Academic Culture
Face-Off

Fluency is important, and finding the time to practice it in class can be tough. Fortunately, my students and I came up with Face Off, a simple, gamefied way to practice multiples and other fluency. 3 students must participate, where two students meet eyes and count off multiples until one makes a mistake. The third person moderates with an answer sheet. This can be modified to practice multiplication facts, division, or fraction operations. I create official FaceOff times where we actually play a "season" and work through a tournament style competition, with students advancing as they defeat their peers. This investment is great, but the fact that it runs itself is even better for me! Students often can be seen Face-ing Off in line in the Cafeteria, on the way to Specials, or in the neighborhood.

 
Academic Culture
The Raffle

Everyone loves tickets! When students earn tickets during the Vocab Blitz, Bull Boards, and other moments, students drop them into the raffle jar. On Fridays we pull out a few names for Nerddy prizes like pens and highlighters. 


 
Academic Culture
Core Idea Content Link

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.

 
Academic Culture
Shared Inquiry Trackers

This is an excel document that is projected during shared inquiry. Each time that a student shares a comment, question, or any other type of substantial response in the group's conversation, a cell is filled to create a bar graph that is easily identifiable by students. It informs them and myself about the participation levels and motivates students to give more to a conversation. 

 
Academic Culture
Council

Council is a time for my students to share their highs and lows related to academics, and to share what's successful and struggling for them in the class. It is a non-hierarchical forum for discussion. This is important in my classroom because it gives us a powerful practice to understand more fully and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions of our classroom. It is a process that continually evolves with each group and in each time in our own developments.  

 
Academic Culture
Catch Up Time

Many students fall behind the class pace as the school year progresses, so I build in time to the class schedule for students to catch up. Before or after a break or towards the end of a trimester I won't move the lesson pace forward, giving students the opportunity to get back on pace.

 
Academic Culture
Stamina Captains

Stamina captains track stamina among students at their table throughout independent work. Especially while working on differentiated or individualized practice, students may feel "alone" in their work and thus easily get distracted (whereas they might feel more pressure if all students are working on the same exact practice). Thus, through emphasizing the skill of stamina, students constantly think about their level of focus and ability to avoid distractions. When students begin discussing something that is off-topic, the stamina captain will write down their name on a post-it. After that, those students get a chance to "fix" their behavior by getting back on task. If their stamina is not fixed, they then get a phone call home as a consequence for their lack of focus. Through this closed loop, parents and students understand their focus and work at school.

 
Academic Culture
Collaborative Hand Signals

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.

 
Academic Culture
Council for Character Development

Every Friday we meet to discuss a topic around character development and 21st century skills. This is a vital classroom practice in my class. Because blended learning is so high paced and intense, students need support as not only learners but people as well. Students transition from their seats to prepare to watch videos or form a circle around the perimeter of our carpet. Our council pieces are brought out. Council pieces are small items that both the students and I have brought which hold major meaning to us. Once we meet, the only person who can speak is the one holding the council piece. We begin by making a dedication to someone in our life or someone we have beeng thinking about. At the end of the dedications, we begin our council. The talking piece is passed around and all students share their thoughts or may pass. Sometimes we will bring an on-demand journal to share, or students may respond to a posed question.  


 
Academic Culture
Four Rules

There are only 4 rules in my classroom. The four rules are 1) Be respectful - I will always talk to students respectfully so there is no reason for students to talk to either myself of their peers with disrepect. 2) Always sit in your assigned seat - seating assignments are always projected in the front of the room so there is no reason to be confused about where to sit. No negotiations. 3) No talking during independent time - this doesn't need much explanation. 4) Technology is used for learning. Their devices should only be used to watch instructional videos otherwise it's too easy to get sucked into the vast abyss of the internet.


 
Academic Culture
Treasure Map

The Treasure Map is a strategy I use to help my students progress through levels in a self-paced environment without setting deadlines for them. My students record when they start a level and when they end a level. If they complete the level in a given amount of time, they receive a piece of the Treasure Map. When my students complete four levels within the given time, they earn a free A (like contracting for an A). This strategy would also work with other forms of rewards, not just awards linked to a grade or extra credit.

 
Academic Culture
Our Two Cents

Our Two Cents is a strategy to increase student discourse and have students respond to questions with more justification, reasoning, and elaboration. Giving their "two cents" refers to them giving more than a one-word response or more than one example. Adding Two Cents to a basket serves as an incentive to my students to elaborate on their responses without much prompting from me. The incentive for students can be determined by the teacher or by the members of the class so that they are motivated to push themselves rather than the teacher always pushing students.

 
Academic Culture
Introduction to Mastery Based Learning

In the traditional classroom, time is constant and understanding is variable from student to student. The Flipped Mastery model inverts the traditional relationship between time and understanding, letting understanding be the constant and time be variable. All of my students are held to the same high standards, but they master standards at a pace they feel comfortable with and are ready for. Initially, many of my students are confused about what a self-paced mastery-based class is all about, so my co-teacher and I find it helpful to introduce the concept to our students in a very strategic and explicit way at the beginning of each school year. 

 
Academic Culture
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.

 
Academic Culture
Synergy

The neighborhood where my students come from can be full of negativity. My students need to learn how to support each other and accept the mistakes that come with the natural process of learning. Synergy is a strategy that is a core element of my blended model; it defines and reinforces the behaviors that successful teams use to work together to overcome a problem. Synergy has four basic expectations: 1) Push each other's thinking; 2) Share the load; 3) Use Accountable Talk; and 4) Move with speed. I use these expectations in a quick evaluation of each group every time we do group work, and the "winning group" receives a small prize, which reinforces my academic and social expectations and incentivizes friendly competition.

 
Academic Culture
Brain Power

Brain Power is a strategy my students and I use to promote a classroom culture of risk-taking, resilience, and collaboration. Early in the year, I teach my students to wiggle their fingers towards their peers who are thinking of an answer or trying to correct an incorrect response. This strategy creates wait time and encourages my students to continue their thinking process without giving up.

 
Academic Culture
Warm Welcomings

Warm Welcomings is a strategy I use to develop a strong positive culture in my blended classroom. When students enter into an inviting atmosphere and begin the class on a positive note, they are able to focus better. It is important to me to start off class together on the rug because my students spend a significant portion of the class working independently on computers and in small groups. Warm Welcomings gives us the time to come together as a community of scholars and it can be anything from a "welcome back from recess" to an invitation for students to share something positive about their time away from class. 

 
Academic Culture
Candy Land Path

The Candy Land Path is a Candy Land-style trail that runs across several walls in my classroom. Each tile on the trail represents a lesson my students have to master in order to advance in the course. This strategy allows my students' progress to be seen and followed on a day-to-day basis, ultimately giving transparency to the learning process. This is a powerful visual tool for every student - especially for over- and under-achievers - and allows me to reframe school as a learning journey and progression as opposed to just working for a grade. The Path also brings an element of fun to the classroom while preserving its motivational purpose. 

 
Academic Culture
Station Expectations

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.

 
Academic Culture
Peer Evaluations

I encourage my students to evaluate their peers whenever they are involved in discourse--both in side conversations as well as in class discussions. I implemented a system of Peer Evaluations, a process that involves students using silent hand signals, in order to give my students more voice in class. Some of my students want to say what they think and exert their opinions, but there isn't enough time for every student to share. Other students easily get distracted and need physical engagement to stay focused. Through Peer Evaluations, my students can share their thoughts and are pushed to stay focused throughout student discourse.

 
Academic Culture
TOAST

TOAST is an acronym that stands for "Time Owed After School Today." It's a very simple and non-punitive consequence that we implement for students who don't follow the rules: 1) Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2) Follow directions the first time; 3) Be prepared. I make it very clear at the beginning of the year that TOAST does not mean I'm mad at you or that you're a bad person; however, there are consequences for your actions that are not consistent with our community expectations. Paying with time and doing some community service or making a plan to change student actions have been effective ways to turn negative student behavior into a positive. 

 
Academic Culture
Town Hall Meeting

Since I work with 3 large cohorts of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students (100+ students in each cohort) my colleagues and I developed a Town Hall Meeting for the beginning of the year to explain our Rules, Routines, Procedures, and Consequences to the entire cohort at once. Having all of my students on the same system has provided tremendous consistency and stability and created a solid community foundation. Town Hall Meeting is a place where students not only hear the expectations but are encouraged to ask questions or make comments to the entire community. Delivering this presentation once to the entire cohort helps to set the culture in an efficient way. 

 
Academic Culture
Freddy's Classroom Culture

A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Freddy’s culture impacts student achievement!


 
Academic Culture
Raul's Classroom Culture

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 Raul’s culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Aaron's Classroom Culture

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 Aaron’s culture impacts student achievement!


 
Academic Culture
Johanna's Classroom Culture

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 Johanna’s culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Stephen's Classroom Culture

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 Stephen's culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Ben's Classroom Culture

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!

 
Academic Culture
Daniel's Classroom Culture

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 Daniel's culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Jessi's Classroom Culture

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 the video below to see how Jessi’s culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Mark's Classroom Culture

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 Mark’s culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Tanesha's Classroom Culture

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 Tanesha’s culture impacts student achievement!

 
Academic Culture
Jeff's Classroom Culture

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 Jeff’s culture impacts student achievement!

 
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