Shoulder Partners and Pop-Up
My students respond well to kinesthetics. Popping up for an answer choice or when they are ready to move on to the next topic is a way to keep the students engaged and also check for understanding. Turn and talk - students turn to talk to their neighbor about a question/problem/scenario that was posed. One of the partners then reports out by either being chosen from the equity sticks or by volunteering by putting their thumb up. I use Shoulder Partner strategy to give students the opportunity to talk, share and explain content to each other. This strategy is good to increase the accountable talk in classrooms and to practice speaking and listening skills.
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.
There are times when the work being completed at the independent station is not designed to be completed in one session. I noticed that, while I could get an accurate pulse of the small-group session and collaborative station, assessing the independent station was more challenging. My students are expected to account for the work they did or did not complete during the independent station by commenting on their progress or by talking about something that was interesting or challenging. This is an extremely powerful accountability strategy and also an opportunity for my students to practice their speaking and listening skills.
I use the Closing Bell strategy to bring my students back together as a community at the end of each class to check for understanding, debrief the class, give "grows and glows," and/or preview what we will be doing the following day. Building in this type of closing at the end of class is especially important in a blended classroom when students are spending so much time working independently or in groups.