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.
Rotations for Practice is a way to deliver new content in small, controlled doses in a station rotation context. Unlike Workshop, where students are more fluid and learning at their own pace, Rotations for Practice is done with groups that cycle to various stages of understanding of a concept. These stations always include a collaborative product, teacher led instruction, and practice or learning on technology.
Weekly Online Homework is a strategy aimed at building up the expectations in class by infusing them into my students' home lives. On Monday, my students are assigned homework that is due on Friday of that week. I use the class website to drive this communication with my students and their parents. The homework that is assigned is differentiated because the assignments are from adaptive online content providers. In addition, my students learn to be responsible for themselves, leading to huge growth in their self-advocacy and learning. On Friday, rewards and consequences are tied to the Dojo Dollars class economy. Because of the online nature of the homework, it can be instantly graded.
Part of building a reflective classroom is giving students the space to reflect on all aspects of their learning from their behavior to the resources in the room. Goal setting is a way to teach this expectation, whole group, to students early in the year, and as a way to focus them during it. Each Monday, students write a Goal post it that has some sample questions to guide students. Ultimately, students can select their own topic, and that free range takes time to nurture into SMART goals. Many students write something like "listen in class" but when we discuss on Tuesday and say "Did you reach this goal?" the answer is not measureable. We want our students to see goals as a procedure that can guide their self-driven learning, not as a reaffirmation of the teacher's thoughts or wants for the student.