Brain Power is a strategy my students and I use to promote a classroom culture of risk-taking, resilience, and collaboration. Early in the year, I teach my students to wiggle their fingers towards their peers who are thinking of an answer or trying to correct an incorrect response. This strategy creates wait time and encourages my students to continue their thinking process without giving up.
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.
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.
Bull Boards is an instructional strategy to practice a computational or fluency skill throughout the week. The skill should be scaffolded, with simple questions building towards more rigor. I found that a main objective of this should not be to get bogged down with long problems (i.e. long division) but rather to check a thought process. For example, asking what a decimal is when rounded to the tenths, or which place value would be a hundred times bigger. The same skills cycle back throughout the year as a way to keep content fresh and allow us to connect currculum quicker.