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.
Before my students begin our system of rotations at the beginning of the year, I take time to make it very clear where they will go, what they will do, and what materials they will need. I also make sure to do frequent checks for understanding. Dedicating extra time to review Rotation Expectations at the beginning of the year helps to ensure that rotations will run smoothly throughout the year. Class tutors are also selected for each rotation. They walk around to support their peers who need help and even help to manage class behavior. Class tutors are given an iPad with access to our ClassDojo site, where they award "positive points" to students following expectations and "needs improvement points" to those who are not following expectations. Through explaining my expectations and leveraging the class tutor to reinforce these expectations, I ensure that my students are giving their best efforts during our rotations.
Fluency is important, and finding the time to practice it in class can be tough. Fortunately, my students and I came up with Face Off, a simple, gamefied way to practice multiples and other fluency. 3 students must participate, where two students meet eyes and count off multiples until one makes a mistake. The third person moderates with an answer sheet. This can be modified to practice multiplication facts, division, or fraction operations. I create official FaceOff times where we actually play a "season" and work through a tournament style competition, with students advancing as they defeat their peers. This investment is great, but the fact that it runs itself is even better for me! Students often can be seen Face-ing Off in line in the Cafeteria, on the way to Specials, or in the neighborhood.
Poll Everywhere is a reflective tool that we use in my classroom to get insight into each other's thoughts, opinions, and answers. Essentially, students on any technology can open a specific or the permant poll question and respond throughout the day. Sometimes, we even do a wordle reflection to get a "pulse check" of how students feel about the content. The students often use Poll Everywhere during Marzano's practice or Workshop to leave advice or share a success or failure with their students. The thinking here is it is important for students to feel like they have an avenue to reflect, and that what they want to say can be useful for others. It helps us to foster a sense of true collaboration and community.