Routines and Procedures
I was spending an hour every day filing students' graded quizzes when we realized, "Why are we doing all this filing? Students could easily do this themselves." Since the number one thing we are trying to get students to do is take ownership over their learning, we decided to have students file their own papers, cutting down on a lot of menial work for us and giving students a chance to see a physical record of what they had and had not mastered.
Carpet Transitions is a process where students walk from their desks to the carpet (or another location) for the next activity. Expectations and directions are explicitly laid out, and we evaluate how our transitions go. As we perform these transitions more and more, we emphasize our efficiency and use of our time. Through this process, we make the most of our learning time and ensure students transition safely.
Numbered heads is a practice we use to randomize and create an element of excitement at the beginning of lessons/investigations. Each student draws a random number from their team cups to start lessons once a week.
Saved by the Bell is a throwback to the old sitcom of my days. During guided reading I use a bell as a means for non-verbal student management, particularly with noise level. One ring of the bell indicates a warning to all that the room is getting loud. Two bells indicates that individuals who I spot are still not keeping their noise level down will run the risk of changing a behavior star. The expectations were set as a class and therefore students know they will be held accountable.
Station transitions occur multiple times in a blended classroom. During station transitions, the team or group that’s coming out of the computers lines up and collects the materials ready to go into the whole group lesson on the rug. At the same time, the group that was just on the rug is now going to the computers and collecting their materials for the computers. We give each students 30 seconds to transition, after which we positively praise 3-4 students for making good transitions.
We don't use text books in our class, we make them. Each student is given a binder at the beginning of the year. The binder becomes a reference book for the students as they fill it up with the lessons they have completed. Many standard textbooks have become a diluted hodepdoge of information, hard for most students (and even myself) to decipher. This binder allows me to create a resource tailored to my students.
This strategy is called Blended Learning Timekeeper. The BL Timekeeper circulates and focuses on looking for students who are moving with urgency and purpose. This strategy emphasizes focus and motivation. Since we implemented this strategy in our class, the students are logging on faster, as they want to be an 'urgency all-star'.
Students self monitoring- At the closing of each session students turns and talk to their neighbor about how their session went, what went well, and what a challenge was. This is done so students have support for their sessions, and so the teacher can visually evaluate how the students feel they are doing. The self monitoring also helps students consider what their next steps should be, as well as offer up suggestions on who to ask for help with certain lessons or who the 'ask an expert' go to would be.
This strategy helps to lighten the mood and get everyone moving. Students in a blended learning class at the elementary level need time to take a break from blended learning at various moments and engage with each other.This strategy facilitates the opportunity to lower the affective filter and have students engage in academic and non-academic conversations. We review the expectations for the transition and what their next steps are when they find a partner. Students spontaneously select a partner, put their hands up together in the air, and keep them there once everyone has a partner. we then decide by height and shirt color who will share first. Any students remaining are paired up accordingly. The song playing serves as a signal about when to go and when to stop moving.
School of One uses a Big Board outside of the classroom to display each student's daily assignment. The Big Board was designed to be like the TV screens in an airline terminal traveleres use to check their flight information. Each student's name is in the same place every day, so my students quickly get into a routine of checking the Big Board for their daily assignments. After checking the board, they come into the classroom to get their computers and get started in their assigned sections.
Keeping students motivated is very important in a self-paced course. Scholar Dollars is a strategy I developed to reward my students for working hard and making progress in the course. The concept of Scholar Dollars is pretty simple. Every time a student passes a Mastery Quiz, they receive five Scholar Dollars. Students receive 15 Scholar Dollars for passing a Level Test. Scholar Dollars can be used to buy school supplies, snacks, or even a pizza party. On random days, I switch up the payouts on Scholar Dollars - doubling the amount given, only paying for 100s on Mastery Quizzes or Level Tests, or giving all the Scholar Dollars earned on that day to one lucky student picked by lottery at the end of class.
My colleagues and I use a variety of hand signals in our classroom to avoid unnecessary disruptions and maintain focus and time on task. Three common hand signals: a signal to use bathroom; a signal for needing scrap paper; and a signal for asking a presenter to speak louder. We introduce all of the hand signals to students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.
My students work independently and in groups using different learning modalities in my blended learning classroom every day. I have developed mechanisms that allow me to get the attention of the entire class when I need to make important announcements, clarify widespread misconceptions, or re-focus the class. Yo, Yo Class! is a call-and-response mechanism that allows me to get the attention of the class quickly. This strategy also taps into youth culture in order to instill a sense of ownership of the class among my students.
Launch is a quick and efficient way for students to prepare themselves to start working on digital content in my blended classroom. This strategy is a student-led process that includes passing out usernames and passwords on paint chips and issuing devices. Student helpers handle the devices and also provide light technical assistance to their peers as they get their assigned devices. Having a student-led Launch process helps to build a culture of student ownership and responsibility in my blended classroom. It also frees me up to complete other last-minute tasks before the beginning of each class.
Positioning is a strategy I use, especially at the beginning of the school year, to ensure that my students know where they should go, what they will do at each station, and how much time they will spend at each station. Positioning occurs after I welcome the class (please see the "Opening Bell" strategy video) and before they begin rotating. I typically project the group assignment page from our class website onto the smart board and do a few quick checks for understanding before I let students go to their stations.
In the Heads Together strategy, my students huddle in pre-determined teams at the beginning or end of a lesson to discuss a question, give each other advice, or decide on a response collaboratively. I use this quick strategy to give my students consistent opportunities to engage in productive group work throughout each class period.
Within my blended learning classroom, students transition between computers and their desks or the carpet at least twice during every class period. To ensure that we don't lose valuable time during these transitions, I have implemented a structured process to support my students in moving from one station to another. When it's time for transition, I call out the name of a station, and the students in the appropriate group call out their group's name, indicating to me that they know where they are going. As students rotate onto the computers, they know that they should walk counter-clockwise, starting from the scratch paper area to their work areas.
I use "call and response" strategies for a variety of purposes in my blended classroom, most of which involve getting my students' attention and reinforcing core concepts of the day's lesson or our school's mission. I use the Focusing Call and Response strategy, which consists of using more than one call and response chant, whenever I need to signal a major change in the mode of instruction or any other time I need to get my students' attention quickly and respectfully. The strategy engages my students and helps them work together to achieve 100% compliance with any instructions I may give. This strategy is especially important because there are so many transitions in my school's blended learning model.
Computer Captains for Transitions is a routine I have developed that allows my students to take on an important peer leadership role that, at the same time, helps minimize the amount of time that my students spend in transition from working independently on a computer to joining their group on the rug for direct instruction or vice versa. Using the Computer Captains for Transitions strategy, which involves designated students alerting their peers to the timing of routinized whole-class transitions, allows my students to develop more ownership over their own learning and the culture of the class. Used in combination with timing transitions and re-doing unsuccessful transitions, this strategy has helped me re-capture critical learning time in my blended learning classroom.
Laser Transitions is a silent way for me to signal to my students that it is time for them to transition off of the computers to a different station. Using this strategy I am able to cue students on the computers while I continue to wrap things up with my students who are either in a mini-lesson with me or at another workstation. This strategy helps me support my students to stay on task until the end of a rotation and to transition smoothly from one station to another.
I ask Student Scouts to identify peers who demonstrate the three class standards/rules (showing respect, solving problems, and making good decisions) to reinforce the idea that good behavior is rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically. Student Scouts identify their peers who are showing these standards at various pausing points throughout the lesson and give out Literacy Awards. Pausing points are planned purposefully and serve as opportunities for students to practice monitoring and assessing their own behavior.
As a blended learning practitioner, I have learned that it's critically important to develop a classroom culture infused with respect and a collaborative spirit. Cultivating and nurturing this culture is especially important in my classroom where so much of the learning is self-paced and the content is largely accessed digitally. The Meet and Greet is a strategy I use to start each day in order to model positive student-teacher interaction, to assess individual student's state of mind quickly, and to motivate my students to engage with the content right away. Our weekly Class Meeting is another strategy that promotes a positive and collaborative classroom culture. In first part of each Class Meeting, my students are nominated for "shout-outs" by their classmates for specific effort and achievement they have demonstrated in the previous week. In the second part of the Class Meeting (please see the "Class Forum" strategy video), my students identify ways in which the class can improve and they suggest potential solutions to difficulties they are experiencing. The Meet and Greet and the Class Meeting are strategies that allow me to express my respect for my students and their experience of learning. Implementing these strategies has resulted in higher degrees of student ownership, responsibility, and engagement.
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.
Before my students begin our system of rotations at the beginning of the year, I take time to make it very clear where they will go, what they will do, and what materials they will need. I also make sure to do frequent checks for understanding. Dedicating extra time to review Rotation Expectations at the beginning of the year helps to ensure that rotations will run smoothly throughout the year. Class tutors are also selected for each rotation. They walk around to support their peers who need help and even help to manage class behavior. Class tutors are given an iPad with access to our ClassDojo site, where they award "positive points" to students following expectations and "needs improvement points" to those who are not following expectations. Through explaining my expectations and leveraging the class tutor to reinforce these expectations, I ensure that my students are giving their best efforts during our rotations.
Camp Dollars is an incentive system created to motivate the class to work as a team towards certain goals. For example, this strategy allows the class to work towards "funding" our 2 big trips in the year - science camp and our end of the year sailing trip. Though my students are not earning actual dollars, they work together to meet our academic and cultural expectations in order to "fundraise" towards our end goal. Because the class earns Camp Dollars based on how we perform, the system allows for continuous reflection and feedback around our everyday activities.
Formal transitions happen twice during a double-block period. My students have to move from one section of my extra-large classroom (3 classrooms merged into one) and move to another section for a new lesson with a new teacher. My students have two minutes to transition from session to session, and we play a variety of interesting music on the surround sound stereo system to keep it fun.