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.

Strategy Resources (2)
Students In Action
Strategy Explanation
This is a list of some other movements that we utilize in class to build joy and success in our room.
Students In Action
Strategy Explanation
This is a list of some other movements that we utilize in class to build joy and success in our room.
Daniel Utset-Guerrero
Holmes Elementary School
Miami, FL


About this strategy

Prep Time:
Fifth grade
Similar Strategies
Instructional Planning
Basketball Problem

The basketball problem is a built in way to teach the students about rigor. At the beginning of the year, we discussed how math is like an onion.  There are many layers and each one is more complex than the last. The "shot" is an opportunity to reward risk-taking and get the students really thinking about the most high-complexity questions that I can ask. For this reason, students are doubly invested in this part of class. One because they want to challenge themselves, and two because they want to get up there and take the shot. 

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.

Small-Group Instruction

This is where the magic happens. Using my formative assessment data, as well as online content data, I pull students from Workshop to Tutoring each day. This targeted lesson allows me to reinforce ideas, and fix misconceptions as well as give an opportunity for students to feel like they are getting from me what they need. Branding is important to me, and Tutoring seemed like an ideal way to frame the station for the students. In reality, that is exactly what it has become, with students asking questions and embracing their past mistakes as opportunities for growth.

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