Whole Group Exploration
Whole Group Exploration is a form of whole group instruction where we work with conceptual models to understand the algorithm behind solving math problems. Students work with whiteboards at the carpet as we discuss and work through a series of problems that build and understanding of our skill. As students successfully prove that they are ready to work independently, I dismiss them to their seat with our practice, keeping the students who need additional support to go through more practice problems. This strategy allows me to give more support to students who need it and release students who are ready to excel.
Before my students begin our system of rotations at the beginning of the year, I take time to make it very clear where they will go, what they will do, and what materials they will need. I also make sure to do frequent checks for understanding. Dedicating extra time to review Rotation Expectations at the beginning of the year helps to ensure that rotations will run smoothly throughout the year. Class tutors are also selected for each rotation. They walk around to support their peers who need help and even help to manage class behavior. Class tutors are given an iPad with access to our ClassDojo site, where they award "positive points" to students following expectations and "needs improvement points" to those who are not following expectations. Through explaining my expectations and leveraging the class tutor to reinforce these expectations, I ensure that my students are giving their best efforts during our rotations.
Workshop is a powerful strategy that provides my students with a degree of choice in how they learn the content in my blended learning classroom. It is also a method of holding them accountable for their choices. I believe that it's important for my students to learn how to manage their time and how to evaluate their learning options so that they can grow closer to taking charge of their own education. Each day, student groups receive "tallies"--ratings for moving quickly, making smooth transitions, and employing responses that feature academic vocabulary and professionalism. I use these tallies to determine the order in which student groups select their blended learning stations on the following day.
Fluency is important, and finding the time to practice it in class can be tough. Fortunately, my students and I came up with Face Off, a simple, gamefied way to practice multiples and other fluency. 3 students must participate, where two students meet eyes and count off multiples until one makes a mistake. The third person moderates with an answer sheet. This can be modified to practice multiplication facts, division, or fraction operations. I create official FaceOff times where we actually play a "season" and work through a tournament style competition, with students advancing as they defeat their peers. This investment is great, but the fact that it runs itself is even better for me! Students often can be seen Face-ing Off in line in the Cafeteria, on the way to Specials, or in the neighborhood.