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.
After five years of traditional teaching, I broke away from direct instruction and moved into a self-paced, blended-gamified classroom. My students flexibly move through the curriculum while self-directing and managing their learning. This is done through the use of Classcraft, an online education gaming software, and our classroom game “Isle of Nosredna.” The addition of game elements into my classroom has helped my students stay on track and motivated as they progress through the science curriculum.
Number of Students: ~20 students/period
Number of Adults: one teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 51 minutes
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Haiku Learning (LMS); Classcraft; Google Classroom; Doctopus (Add-on in Google Sheets connected to Google Classroom); Educreations; Flipboard; Symbaloo; Kidblog; ThingLink; Socrative; Kahoot!
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: iPads (1:1); SMARTboard; Apple TV
Key Features: competency-based; student agency; project-based; gamification; innovative use of space
Genius Hour is an ongoing project in which my students identify and explore their scientific interests and passions. Developed every Friday for an entire semester during class, the project provides an opportunity for students to cultivate their research and critical thinking skills while engaging in a topic that is of interest to them. As part of the Genius Hour project, my students connect with "virtual partners" from outside our state in a collaborative effort to authenticate their projects even more. Genius Hour culminates in a demonstration of students' research findings in a format of the students' choosing. This year, I have included the use of Flipboard, an application that allows students to search for a variety of web-based resources and to curate these resources in a visually compelling and user-friendly way.
QR codes are simple and easy to make codes that allow classroom resources, like videos, websites, and assignments to be accessed with little effort. These codes can be made easily using the Chrome extension goo.gl URL shortener or a website like qrstuff.com. They can be displayed on an interactive whiteboard, printed on an assignment, or printed and taped to a wall at a station or on a lab desk. QR codes take away the barrier of typing in long URLs or shortened website links, and get students to resources quickly.