CSI Time is an inquiry based strategy where students must solve a "math mystery" that introduces a concept that we will learn. They have until the end of the week to collaboratively (with their detective partner) discover the clues and work their way to the "criminall". In just 10 minutes, students have worked themselves into a frenzy to grapple with content they may not already know what to do with. This desire to problem solve pushes students during the lesson that follows to learn the skills they need to solve the mystery.
This collaborative strategy is simple but effective. Students roam the room finding new questions to answer together, and scan the code with an iPad to check their work. Then, they put all the answers together to unlock a secret code. The use of QR codes in class has greatly improved the effectiveness of student work because of their ability to stop and check their answers. Their enthusiasm for this activity is clear, and making it into a competition of sorts makes it all the more fun. I utilize the QR codes in everything from directions to links to activities. Still, my favorite use is monitoring groups during QR code breakers.
Stamina captains track stamina among students at their table throughout independent work. Especially while working on differentiated or individualized practice, students may feel "alone" in their work and thus easily get distracted (whereas they might feel more pressure if all students are working on the same exact practice). Thus, through emphasizing the skill of stamina, students constantly think about their level of focus and ability to avoid distractions. When students begin discussing something that is off-topic, the stamina captain will write down their name on a post-it. After that, those students get a chance to "fix" their behavior by getting back on task. If their stamina is not fixed, they then get a phone call home as a consequence for their lack of focus. Through this closed loop, parents and students understand their focus and work at school.
The Vocab Blitz is a visual strategy used to teach concepts through the use of math vocabulary. Students answer deep questions about the relationship between words and math and earn tickets. They place these in the Raffle Jar, which we pick from on Fridays for a small prize. Math vocabulary just for the sake of knowing academic language is good, but the Vocab Blitz explicitly asks students to apply the terms, which allows me to build more rigorous questions and connect ideas (i.e. how volume connects to science). For example, by knowing what the dividend actually is, we have a shared language that we can use when trying to figure out if a problem is asking us to multiply or divide, and to connect to improper fractions' numerator when converting them.