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.
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.
This collaborative strategy is simple but effective. Students roam the room finding new questions to answer together, and scan the code with an iPad to check their work. Then, they put all the answers together to unlock a secret code. The use of QR codes in class has greatly improved the effectiveness of student work because of their ability to stop and check their answers. Their enthusiasm for this activity is clear, and making it into a competition of sorts makes it all the more fun. I utilize the QR codes in everything from directions to links to activities. Still, my favorite use is monitoring groups during QR code breakers.
Plickers are an online check for understanding procedure where students can answer multiple choice questions. Students are each assigned a "plicker" or paper clicker that enables them to respond based on how they are holding it. The training for it's use is quick, and we can use a tablet to instantly record the results. The results can be uploaded and tracked for even more data! This ability to stop instruction to see how students are doing is essential to having a flexible and student-need based classroom. Plickers allows me to get real time data and make decisions that make me a better time manager and allows me to potentially see misconceptions.