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.
Experience Based Lab Introductions is a strategy I use to get students to start thinking about their prior knowledge and how it can be applied to a problem or challenge. For example, I use the story about Who Polluted the Clark Fork to set the stage for our water filter lab. The story allows students to use their knowledge-base to answer simple questions throughout the story. As the activity continues, I see students' perspectives change as more elements and variables are added to the story. The stories peak students' interest and bring a call to action into a classroom activity. This strategy is embedded in the Conceptual Change Model, where I'm trying to expose students' beliefs, confront and accommodate those beliefs, and then extend the concept to help students move beyond their misconceptions.
Anytime I can bring a student up for a demonstration it usually captures the other students' attention much more than I do. Having a physical connection can help with internalizing the mathematics.
One way we bring authenticity to our lessons is by making explicit connections or real world hooks to what we're learning. What I particularly enjoyed about our persuasive writing unit is that we were able to identify real problems in our own school community and to think of solutions. It then brought about real change in our school, and in this case brought about getting more magazines into the classroom which was an identified need of our class.
While I often use a Google Form survey or an opening conversation to start class and set the tone, there is also tremendous value in having students write their individual thoughts in their Writer's Notebooks. Ours is a mostly paperless classroom despite the fact that it is an English class, so these pen-to-paper moments are significant ones. Students understand that these journal entries are silent reflections meant to put them in the frame of mind needed for the day's lessons.
I noticed that students both needed and wanted a quick and engaging introduction to content. Instead of simply asking what do you know about this topic students prior knowledge is activated through a often funny yet very informative video segment on a topic. These videos are great for introduciing Social Studies content because they take often large and abstract topics and make them accessible for students.
Generating student talk in the classroom is a focal point for my teaching, and it is important that those conversations happen in both high-stakes and low-stakes settings. A Warm-Up is the forum for a low-stakes conversation that can generate a high return. For example, the journey for a student to become an excellent oral presenter can be an uncomfortable one. Opening class with a conversation where students can talk with each other in anticipation of these growing pains does perpetuate a sense of camaraderie and support, although my students have referred to it as a feeling of "shared doom". Additionally, a teacher can have an influence on the energy of the class depending on what prompts are crafted for the Conversational Warm-Up.
In my class, we go over one word a day from the unit weâre learning. The first step is to ask the class how many have heard of the word before. After I tally the number, those students predict its meaning (without giving any contexts). I ask them to justify why they make that prediction (e..g, where have they heard that word before? What clues are they drawing their information from?). After they share their predictions, I then share with them the signal or physical movement attached to word. It then becomes the signal word of the day.
As we move more into content-based learning, the information presented to students can seem very dense at times. A Hook is a simple way to get them excited and give them a sense of what is about to happen in a fun way. The Role Play Hook asks my students to place themselves in others' shoes to get a sense of space and time when they are learning history or science content.
Chemistry is a combination of the comprehension of scientific content and the application of mathematics to those concepts. My students have to be prepared to think deeply about difficult concepts the minute they step into my room. Starting the class with a relevant "Catalyst" helps them initiate their own thinking processes in preparation for a productive day in the same way that biological enzymes catalyze chemical reactions. During The Catalyst, I model my thinking process for how to approach a mathematical problem by having my students identify the key steps in the calculation and establish a foundation that students who struggle with math can fall back on when they're confused.
KWS stands for what we Know, Want to know, and how might we Solve a word problem. The KWS Chart is a catalyst that gets my students to organize and analyze complex word problems. My students are more successful with word problems when they have a toolkit for simplifying the complex information often found within word problems. This tool is an essential scaffold for English Language Learners in my class. The strategy is also great to uncover with my students the fact that there are multiple ways of solving a problem, no matter how complex it may be, and often times there may be multiple routes to a solution.
At the beginning of each Independent Learning Zone class session, I do a quick review of Independent Learning Zone Expectations. This strategy encourages the whole class to come together as a community with common expectations in mind before students begin working independently for the remainder of the class.
Opening Bell is a strategy I use to start class every day. I start by asking students to "clamshell" their computers--closing their devices almost all the way--and then I give a whole-class greeting. We spend the next two minutes checking the review section of the class agenda and preparing for the whole-class mini-lesson, announcements, and/or administrative tasks. Given that my students spend a significant portion of each class working independently or in small groups, Opening Bell gives us the opportunity to come together as a whole-class community before students start working on their own.
My students engage in a strategy called Math Fact Fluency for a few minutes each class period. They use a dry erase marker to fill in a blank multiplication table inside a plastic sheet protector according to a specific rule (by 2s, by 5s, etc.). I use this strategy to help my students notice patterns within the multiplication table and to develop a deep conceptual understanding of multiplication.
Explicitly stating the Goal of the Day is a deliberate strategy I employ at the beginning of my lessons to ensure that my students understand the purpose (both short- and long-term) of the work we will be doing together. Reviewing the Goal of the Day clarifies for my students the larger meaning behind the smaller and more discrete pieces of learning they do every day. It also helps us all remain focused on my students' larger dreams and aspirations.
I attempt to begin every class lesson with a "hook" that will help my students get excited about what they're going to learn. The Text Connections Hook is a strategy I use to support my students to make text connections while they are reading. The gestures I model in this strategy help my students remember the meaning behind each type of text connection and get excited about making these connections.
My class is divided into two heterogeneous groups. Each group spends half its time working with me and the other half working independently on computers. Get Set is the strategy I use to prepare my students for the activity they will be starting. I may also give some additional directions during this time that reinforce behavioral or academic expectations. During this strategy, students who are going to the computers go to a shelf that contains their headphones and then proceed to line up near the computers. When I see that most students are set to begin, I tell them to proceed and to log in.
The Power Up is a component of the lesson in which I gamify computational skills that my students have seen in prior lessons, or pre-teach the recall aspects of an upcoming skill. The skill remains the same all week, culminating in an assessment that is tracked. My students use the tracker for investment and to earn Dojo Dollar bonuses in the class economy.
Learning Targets are specific skill goals that align the work we do each day with the long-term goals my students and I have set at the beginning of the year. This strategy is a part of the larger mastery system in place in my self-paced blended learning classroom. By dissecting large skills into smaller Learning Targets, my students are more effectively able to self-assess their progress towards mastery in each of these skills. By emphasizing assessment for learning and achievement at high levels on specific Learning Targets, we take the focus off of assessment for the sole purpose of grading and gradually replace it with student ownership of their learning.
The Demo Discussion is a strategy I use to provide an interesting and memorable in-class demonstration of complex concepts that my students will learn about in class on a given day, using a variety of digital resources. The Demo Discussion is an excellent way to promote student curiosity about scientific phenomena. The "demos" provide access points for my students to witness and wonder about complicated chemical processes that they will eventually explore and understand at a much deeper level. By leveraging additional physical and digital tools, I can facilitate in-depth analysis and support the development of models to explain the science behind the demo. This strategy also allows me to surface my students' questions and interests about the day's Learning Targets (please see the "Learning Targets" strategy video), to which I can refer and make connections throughout our exploration of that content.
The Warm Up is a strategy I use during the first 10 minutes of every class to activate my students' interest and to prepare them individually and collectively to engage in the content of the day's lesson. A Warm Up can be a journal write, a table conversation, a review of a short Gooru Collection (please see the "Gooru Collection" strategy video), or a teacher-generated survey that students take using a Google Form. With the exception of table conversations, my students understand that Warm Ups are silent exercises that allow them to reflect honestly and by themselves without the influence of other's opinions. Responding to a Google Form Warm Up is one of my students' favorite strategies because the common spreadsheet populated by their answers is shared with everyone across multiple sections of English 12, making students who are in different class periods feel more connected. The Google Form Warm Up also allows my students to practice working with data through small-group and whole-class conversations.
Just the Facts asks one to two students to summarize quickly the reading that will be used in the day's discussion. We follow a simple protocol of "Who + What"--citing which characters from the text did what significant actions in order to move the plot forward. When the initial student is finished sharing key facts from the reading, another student might be asked to fill in any other details. If there are plot details that are incorrect, it is an opportunity for other students to correct the errors. These "police report" type of summaries can be audio or video recorded, quickly edited, and then posted on to the class website as a more engaging way for students to review significant plot points from our class texts. Although there is an ideal reading pace at which I want students to move, some will be ahead of the reading calendar and some will be behind. Also, many students are anxious or reluctant to share out loud when it comes to analysis of the reading. Given that the Just the Facts reports the text's plot and simply the facts, more students are enthusiastic about sharing because the strategy allows different students to be the experts in relaying facts.
My students generate questions before their computer-based blended learning sessions in order to guide their reading of a text through the virtual library, MyOn. They will use these class-generated questions as a reading strategy ("asking questions") in order to increase their comprehension and will give more explicit purpose to their reading. This simple strategy has helped my students be more focused and successful when they're reading independently on My On.
Front Loading gives my students an opportunity to preview skills or information in advance of it being taught to them. I used to only do Front Loading in the opening of my lessons, but now we have blended learning programs that allow my students to front-load information whenever they start reading. Some examples of Front Loading using online programs are iReady, which has additional lesson assignment capability, and MyOn, which allows my students to preview text about upcoming topics.
Mad Minute is a fast-paced math fact practice strategy that our class does every day as our "Do Now." My students get one minute to finish as many problems as they can, working towards getting the highest number of consecutive problems correct. As my students work on Mad Minute more and more, they improve their accuracy and speed. We also focus on improvement rather than overall score, celebrating students who get higher scores towards the end of the week.