The Math Journal startegy is a closing sequence I use as an ongoing informal assessment at least twice a week. I typically collect at least five journals and respond back to students by writing positive praise and/or a question to have them answer about their answer. I will also conduct a quick visual check by walking around at the conclusion of a math journal session and place a sticker, grade, or smiley face on each student's journal. The Math Journal is a very open constructive tool students can use to develop their mathematical writing prowess and reinforce mathematical vocabulary.
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.
Council is a time for my students to share their highs and lows related to academics, and to share what's successful and struggling for them in the class. It is a non-hierarchical forum for discussion. This is important in my classroom because it gives us a powerful practice to understand more fully and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions of our classroom. It is a process that continually evolves with each group and in each time in our own developments.
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.