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.
Part of building a reflective classroom is giving students the space to reflect on all aspects of their learning from their behavior to the resources in the room. Goal setting is a way to teach this expectation, whole group, to students early in the year, and as a way to focus them during it. Each Monday, students write a Goal post it that has some sample questions to guide students. Ultimately, students can select their own topic, and that free range takes time to nurture into SMART goals. Many students write something like "listen in class" but when we discuss on Tuesday and say "Did you reach this goal?" the answer is not measureable. We want our students to see goals as a procedure that can guide their self-driven learning, not as a reaffirmation of the teacher's thoughts or wants for the student.
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.
This collaborative strategy is simple but effective. Students roam the room finding new questions to answer together, and scan the code with an iPad to check their work. Then, they put all the answers together to unlock a secret code. The use of QR codes in class has greatly improved the effectiveness of student work because of their ability to stop and check their answers. Their enthusiasm for this activity is clear, and making it into a competition of sorts makes it all the more fun. I utilize the QR codes in everything from directions to links to activities. Still, my favorite use is monitoring groups during QR code breakers.