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.
I use Daily Exit Tickets to assess mastery of the day's objectives and to make sure students have a clear understanding of how they're doing. Students answer a few targeted questions on a Daily Exit Ticket, and the following day we review mastery shown by each student and celebrate their achievement (please see the "Data Review" strategy video). I read out each student's name who achieved mastery, and we quickly celebrate to recognize their hard work. For the students who have not reached mastery yet, this motivates them to keep striving to get that checkmark on the board. Rather than just using outdated student data from summative assessments, Daily Exit Tickets give me and my students a quick read on how they're growing throughout the week. Though these mini-assessments do not connect to my grading system, they allow me to track my students' daily progress throughout each week.
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.
Teachers need feedback from their students constantly to make good decisions. One way I check what my students brains are doing is through Post it Power. This strategy involves students writing an answer to either a reflective question or math problem that will illuminate their understanding. Using this information, I get a powerful, visual snapshot of the class that helps me to make decisions about the following days' lesson.