Quick Write Summary
Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments.
Organizing labs that span over a number of classes requires a substantial amount of pre-planning. The benefits of proper Lab Documentation are potentially enormous for students. Lab Documentation ensures that I can follow students through every step of the lab process even when groups are completing different segments within varying timeframes. Students develop lab procedures on Google Docs, create charts/tables/graphs on Google Sheets, and compile lab portfolios on wikispaces. By hosting their work on Google Apps for Education, my students can easily collaborate with group mates and me on a lab activity over the course of a week or more. During this time, I can ask probing questions, offer insight on effective lab methods and tactics, work directly on their documents, and help students record their labs with media-capture tools. Being able to analyze video of the lab procedure next to the results it produced provides my students a great means to produce high-quality lab reports, which they can publish to the web and their group wikispace pages.
My blended classroom is based on the Flipped Mastery model (please see the "Introduction to Mastery Based Learning" strategy video). When my students think that they have mastered the skills and concepts in a particular lesson, they show their completed notes to me or my co-teacher and get a Mastery Quiz. Students then head to the Mastery Zone, which is a section of the classroom reserved for students taking Mastery Quizzes and Level Tests. There is no talking in the Mastery Zone and the only technology permitted is a calculator. If they achieve at an 80% or higher rate, students move forward in the curriculum. If not, they review the concepts and materials in the lesson and re-take the Mastery Quiz in the Mastery Zone when they are ready. The Mastery Zone assessment strategy is a concept I adapted from the Algebros Flipped Mastery program.
At the beginning of each trimester students are given a checklist to track their own mastery. As they progress through the lessons, they mark off what they have completed, in addition to the grade they received on each lesson. This acts as planner, letting students know at any given moment what they have completed, and what is left for them to learn to finish the trimester.