The Class Forum is a 2-5 minute portion of the Class Meeting (please see the "Meet and Greet/Class Meeting" strategy video) at the beginning of each week in which my students propose solutions to learning barriers that they have experienced or may see arising in class. This strategy ensures that my students' voices will be heard and empowers them to be change agents in shaping the class environment. While it is important to offer other avenues for individualized contact between myself and my students, having a space for a public discussion emphasizes the collaborative atmosphere that I want my students to work in every day. As a blended learning teacher, my practice is evolving from day to day and week to week. The Class Forum creates a safe and regular channel for my students to give me feedback about their needs and experiences. My commitment and responsiveness to my students' suggestions motivates them to be more invested in their learning and to our classroom community, which is critical to their success in my self-paced blended learning model.
Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments.
My blended classroom is based on the Flipped Mastery model (please see the "Introduction to Mastery Based Learning" strategy video). When my students think that they have mastered the skills and concepts in a particular lesson, they show their completed notes to me or my co-teacher and get a Mastery Quiz. Students then head to the Mastery Zone, which is a section of the classroom reserved for students taking Mastery Quizzes and Level Tests. There is no talking in the Mastery Zone and the only technology permitted is a calculator. If they achieve at an 80% or higher rate, students move forward in the curriculum. If not, they review the concepts and materials in the lesson and re-take the Mastery Quiz in the Mastery Zone when they are ready. The Mastery Zone assessment strategy is a concept I adapted from the Algebros Flipped Mastery program.
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.