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.
To take a quick pulse of the class I may do a fist to five (students hold up a fist if they had difficulties or were unable to get in synch with the rest of class to a five which means they felt successful and are ready to transition to the next station). This Likert scale type voting gives me the opportunity to be responsive to specific student needs and quickly ascertain which students need my immediate attention or which student’s work/submissions I should review. There are also times when I feel it is appropriate to hear from students and give them the opportunity to exercise their student voice. During this exercise I take both volunteers and non-volunteers to give me their “thrills and chills/roses and thorns/high and lows of the day”. I think it is important for students to see me receive critical feedback or praise and be able to appropriately respond. It is extremely powerful for students to make a suggestion on how our class should operate and see it implemented almost immediately.
My co-teachers and I use a simple set of three rules to guide our blended classroom: 1. Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2. Follow directions the first time; and 3. Be prepared. The consistency of these rules is really important for middle schoolers and creates a great culture of learning in our House. We share these rules with students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.
I use this strategy to activate my students' interest and prior knowledge on a topic. This gives me a good starting point on the curated video and reading list for the independent station. It also gives my students a visual representation of the range of interests in the class. In my opinion, using the interests of my students to guide instruction is the core of a student-centered classroom.