Independent Learning Zone Expectations
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.
Launch is a quick and efficient way for students to prepare themselves to start working on digital content in my blended classroom. This strategy is a student-led process that includes passing out usernames and passwords on paint chips and issuing devices. Student helpers handle the devices and also provide light technical assistance to their peers as they get their assigned devices. Having a student-led Launch process helps to build a culture of student ownership and responsibility in my blended classroom. It also frees me up to complete other last-minute tasks before the beginning of each class.
Positioning is a strategy I use, especially at the beginning of the school year, to ensure that my students know where they should go, what they will do at each station, and how much time they will spend at each station. Positioning occurs after I welcome the class (please see the "Opening Bell" strategy video) and before they begin rotating. I typically project the group assignment page from our class website onto the smart board and do a few quick checks for understanding before I let students go to their stations.
My students crave independence, but they are sometimes unable to prioritize, monitor, and regulate their progress. My students are also often unable at the beginning of a school year to articulate how or where to start an assignment. This strategy is designed to give my students a model of how to manage their own workflow. Having a Workflow Guide is a good strategy to teach in Social Studies because it gives my students a step-by-step pathway to competency. This strategy is particularly well suited for middle grades because they need an increased sense of agency that allows them work independently as they prepare to transition to high school, college, and their careers.