Council is a time for my students to share their highs and lows related to academics, and to share what's successful and struggling for them in the class. It is a non-hierarchical forum for discussion. This is important in my classroom because it gives us a powerful practice to understand more fully and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions of our classroom. It is a process that continually evolves with each group and in each time in our own developments.
In my class, students are allowed to offer peer support on the computers. My students identify what is a problem or a need they have and it is my job to identify who might be their support. This has helped my students offer guidance and help in a structured way. Peer support on the computers has helped with increasing academic discourse and social interactions as well as give a structured place for students to provide assistance to each other. Cooperative learning and reciprocal teaching are benefits to this strategy as well.
Each week the boat on our ‘Treasure BL Wall’ is moved across three islands until the boat reaches the final island where a treasure awaits the class with a hidden treasure. Once we have reached the treasure the hidden prize usually is something like a popcorn party, movie. pizza party, game time party, or class-selected incentive. This is the last part of the reflection. This part involves students deciding if we should or should not move our blended learning tracking tool towards our end goal. Our tracking tool in my class is the treasure blended learning wall, where students can see their progress and can view blended learning in a game-like way. The game involves students versus fictional characters on our map who are trying to get to the goal before we can.
One of the most powerful benefits of my school's blended learning model is the amount of time it creates for me to work individually with my students on their literacy development. One strategy I use often is a Writer's Workshop Conference, which consists of my having a targeted conversation with each student during which I am able to give feedback about his or her writing. I work hard at the beginning of the year to establish a classroom culture in which all students, regardless of the activity they are involved with at any given moment, understand how important it is that I be able to provide focused, uninterrupted support to each of them. This makes it possible for me to focus on one student's writing for three to five minutes every day while other students are working individually or in small groups.