Real World Hook
One way we bring authenticity to our lessons is by making explicit connections or real world hooks to what we're learning. What I particularly enjoyed about our persuasive writing unit is that we were able to identify real problems in our own school community and to think of solutions. It then brought about real change in our school, and in this case brought about getting more magazines into the classroom which was an identified need of our class.
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.
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.
My students generate questions before their computer-based blended learning sessions in order to guide their reading of a text through the virtual library, MyOn. They will use these class-generated questions as a reading strategy ("asking questions") in order to increase their comprehension and will give more explicit purpose to their reading. This simple strategy has helped my students be more focused and successful when they're reading independently on My On.