The neighborhood where my students come from can be full of negativity. My students need to learn how to support each other and accept the mistakes that come with the natural process of learning. Synergy is a strategy that is a core element of my blended model; it defines and reinforces the behaviors that successful teams use to work together to overcome a problem. Synergy has four basic expectations: 1) Push each other's thinking; 2) Share the load; 3) Use Accountable Talk; and 4) Move with speed. I use these expectations in a quick evaluation of each group every time we do group work, and the "winning group" receives a small prize, which reinforces my academic and social expectations and incentivizes friendly competition.
At the end of the lesson, when it comes time to practice, my students find themselves at varying levels of success with the material. Some of my students have mastered material, while others need more guidance. I teach my students how to use Robert Marzano's scale of self-assessment, which allows them to rate their level of need. In our class, each level of the scale corresponds to a mode of practice, including teacher guidance, peer tutoring, online practice, and enrichment.
Student-Led Homework Review is a form of differentiation, where students with the same level of homework collaborate and review their homework assignment from the prior night. Since it would take too long to have teacher-led reviews for each group, we have students share their answers and help each other figure out the correct answers with their peers. Though I sometimes give them answer keys, I push students to discuss problems and figure out the correct solutions through their reasoning skills. This process encourages collaboration and accuracy in students' homework practice.
The basketball problem is a built in way to teach the students about rigor. At the beginning of the year, we discussed how math is like an onion. There are many layers and each one is more complex than the last. The "shot" is an opportunity to reward risk-taking and get the students really thinking about the most high-complexity questions that I can ask. For this reason, students are doubly invested in this part of class. One because they want to challenge themselves, and two because they want to get up there and take the shot.