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 each class period, we spend time celebrating the soft skills students exhibited throughout class. Rather than focusing on academic achievements such as tests, we shout out students who show our core values, such as persistence, responsibility, or empathy. This way students get a chance to recognize one another for their support throught class. This ritual also positively reinforces these values, as students feel successful when they get a shout out.
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.
The mastery tracker displays individual progress towards all 5th grade math goals. In order to ensure that all students work towards the standards that we are held accountable to (regardless of pacing), we track progress and celebrate our achievements. This also allows for easy grouping for small group instruction as well as planning for future reteaches. Students can demonstrate mastery through our formative and summative assessments, knowing that the practice they work on between assessments helps them achieve such mastery.