Weekly Online Homework
Weekly Online Homework is a strategy aimed at building up the expectations in class by infusing them into my students' home lives. On Monday, my students are assigned homework that is due on Friday of that week. I use the class website to drive this communication with my students and their parents. The homework that is assigned is differentiated because the assignments are from adaptive online content providers. In addition, my students learn to be responsible for themselves, leading to huge growth in their self-advocacy and learning. On Friday, rewards and consequences are tied to the Dojo Dollars class economy. Because of the online nature of the homework, it can be instantly graded.
I begin every Math class with a high-energy strategy called Threshold. Students line up outside the classroom door "dressed for success" in their uniforms with their shirts tucked in. After a group greeting, a Math chant (practicing our multiples), and instructions for entering, my students walk to the door, shake my hand, enter the room, and immediately begin a Math warm-up. Threshold ensures that all of my students transition from their previous class smoothly and that their minds are ready for Math instruction.
The Vocab Blitz is a visual strategy used to teach concepts through the use of math vocabulary. Students answer deep questions about the relationship between words and math and earn tickets. They place these in the Raffle Jar, which we pick from on Fridays for a small prize. Math vocabulary just for the sake of knowing academic language is good, but the Vocab Blitz explicitly asks students to apply the terms, which allows me to build more rigorous questions and connect ideas (i.e. how volume connects to science). For example, by knowing what the dividend actually is, we have a shared language that we can use when trying to figure out if a problem is asking us to multiply or divide, and to connect to improper fractions' numerator when converting them.
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.