Grade Contracts are a strategy I use to assess my students' progress towards mastery of defined sets of content and skill objectives and to provide feedback on their development at the end of each level in my blended learning class. Students review the mastery requirements for each level and decide whether they will pursue an "A," "B," "C," or "D" contract; in so doing, they understand and commit to what they must know and be able to do in order to earn the letter grade of the contracts they have chosen. Grade Contracts eliminate the superficiality of number grades on individual assignments and focus my students' attention on authentic demonstrations of mastery over time. This strategy also empowers my students to challenge themselves and to monitor and take responsibility for their own learning, which is an essential mindset shift in my largely self-paced class.
The storyline of our academic game gives meaning to the students' presence in the game. It enhances the importance of the curriculum and gives students a goal to work toward. The theme our storyline is based around is a deserted island. In the game, students are elite plane crash survivors (PCSs) who must learn to live on the island after not being rescued. Throughout the levels, students are asked to build fire, build shelter, find food, filter water, and survive unexpected storms. By mastering each level, students complete the tasks and move onto the next scenario in the game.
Instant Feedback, my method for conferencing with students on a daily basis, is one of the strategies I use each day to help my students progress through the content in my largely self-paced course. I also use Instant Feedback to gauge my students' understanding of the material we are covering. As I walk around the room, I'm constantly looking at what students have written and am asking them to explain their thinking. If I need to learn more about their thinking, I ask additional questions until I identify the source of their confusion or misconceptions or until I am convinced that they are on the right track. This year I have begun to experiment with a protocol called "SE2R" (Summarize, Explain, Redirect, Resubmit) to structure some of my Instant Feedback to my students and to help them identify their next steps.
Music is used to transition students at the beginning and end of the class period. Students spend the first four minutes of class logging into their learning management system Haiku and Classcraft account (gamification platform). We have established as a class that all iPads (we are 1:1) should be charged and open during this period of time. This length of time is indicated by a 4:34 minute clip of music. During this time, I take attendance, fill out advanced make-ups, and talk to students who have been absent or have questions.The last three minutes in our class are indicated by transition music. This music lasts 2 minutes. It indicates that students can log out of Haiku, close their apps and their iPads. If students are in the middle of an activity, they wrap-up what they are working on either by saving it as a draft or submitting their assignment. If students close their iPads before the music sounds and have stopped working, they are deducted health points (HP) on Classcraft. I do this because I want students to use every minute for learning as I would if I was using direct instruction in my class.