Science can be messy and my students are often in such a rush to take care of the priorities for the next class that they forget to clean up their work and physical area appropriately. Closing Time reminds my students of their obligations for the end of a class period and standardizes a system that promotes personal responsibility for all class materials. During this time, I list all of the upcoming class assignments and events on the board, so that my students can begin thinking about future activities when they've finished cleaning up and closing down. Coupling this strategy with a tool like Remind 101 keeps my students aware of what is expected of them outside of class time.
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.
Many of our students come to us far below grade level, some still struggling with adding and multiplying. To support these students, my co-teacher Mr. Elizondo developed an alternative program for students not prepared for high school level standards. While we want every student to work their way through the high school geometry curriculum at their own pace, we felt that our class would become prohibitive and demoralizing for students with low skills or severe learning disabilities. In the alternative program, my students work at their own pace through a series of worksheets that meet the same standards as you would see in a high school geometry curriculum except the difficulty has been adjusted to make it attainable for students in the program. The Alternative Mastery Program is a step towards greater personalization of the curriculum to meet all of my students' needs.
A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties the students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Ben's culture impacts student achievement!