In my school, students use a lab rotation system where they go to a computer lab for set amounts of time to work on online content through sites such as Lexia and ST Math. In my own class, I also use a station rotation system, where groups of students spend time learning in different ways. Online sites like Khan Academy and FrontRow help to differentiate the content, collaborative skills make learning social, and teacher interventions help me to address misconceptions. My students gain valuable digital and character skills while they manage their own learning. My model has fostered perseverance and independence among my students that I know will help them to be successful in their lives.
Number of Students: 17 students per class
Number of Adults: one teacher; one paraprofessional (20 minutes per period)
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 90 minutes with teacher; 90 minutes in Learning Lab
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Khan Academy; Google Classroom; Google Forms; Front Row; ST Math (in Learning Lab); DreamBox (in Learning Lab)
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: Chromebooks (1:1 ratio); SMARTboard
Key Features: station rotation; lab rotation; student agency;individualized learning paths
A blended teacher’s personal mindsets shape his decisions as an educator. These mindsets influence general pedagogies, instructional approaches, and short-term decision making, alike. Check out how Stephen’s mindsets have helped to shape his blended instruction.
Communicating and collaborating with both colleagues and students' families is crucial in a blended environment. This is especially true if a teacher is doing something that looks very different from other teachers at his school. Check out how Stephen communicates and collaborates with both his colleagues at school and his students' families and how his methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.
There are an infinite number of digital content providers and tech tools and education programs a blended teacher can choose to use in his classroom. Check out how and why Stephen uses specific digital content and ed tech tools!
I encourage my students to evaluate their peers whenever they are involved in discourse--both in side conversations as well as in class discussions. I implemented a system of Peer Evaluations, a process that involves students using silent hand signals, in order to give my students more voice in class. Some of my students want to say what they think and exert their opinions, but there isn't enough time for every student to share. Other students easily get distracted and need physical engagement to stay focused. Through Peer Evaluations, my students can share their thoughts and are pushed to stay focused throughout student discourse.
ClassDojo is a free behavior tracking system. I use it everyday to give students feedback on how they're meeting academic and behavioral expectations. As students are given postiive points or "needs work" points, a sound beeps and the entire class hears and sees that a student is being given feedback. Just as with behavior narration, students become more aware about their personal behaviors, following the expectations as they see them reiterated through behavior points. Their scores carry through with them to each class, culminating in a report at the end of the day that goes home to the students' parents. This allows parents to stay in the loop with how students are working and behaving at school.
Stamina captains track stamina among students at their table throughout independent work. Especially while working on differentiated or individualized practice, students may feel "alone" in their work and thus easily get distracted (whereas they might feel more pressure if all students are working on the same exact practice). Thus, through emphasizing the skill of stamina, students constantly think about their level of focus and ability to avoid distractions. When students begin discussing something that is off-topic, the stamina captain will write down their name on a post-it. After that, those students get a chance to "fix" their behavior by getting back on task. If their stamina is not fixed, they then get a phone call home as a consequence for their lack of focus. Through this closed loop, parents and students understand their focus and work at school.
A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties the students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Stephen's culture impacts student achievement!
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.
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.
Digital Content Connection ensures that students, while engaged in online practice, work on targeted skills that will help them achieve their individual goals. Through various forms of data (Exit Tickets, formative/summative assessments, online learning programs, etc.), I identify the skills that each student needs to practice. I will often group my students into homogenous levels and assign them the same practice. Other times I assign my students individual lessons to meet their needs. Through this process, my students receive practice that is tailored to their needs, allowing them to master a skill before moving on to the next level of content.
Planning is an essential part of a blended teacher’s practice. In blended environments, where students can be at different points in a course on various modalities, blended teachers need to be very intentional about how they plan. Check out the video below to see how Stephen plans for instruction in his blended classroom.
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.
Friday Review is a one-day activity designed to address specific needs and growth areas for each student. Using very recent data (from Exit Tickets or formative assessments), I identify specific skills that each student needs reinforcement with. Throughout class, students rotate through either small group lessons with me or individualized activities at their tables. When students work with me, they work on remedial practice to make sure they fill in any gaps in their understanding. While working independently, students work on various activities, including targeted online practice, practice worksheets, and hands-on activities, all selected and designed based on assessment data. Though my students work with their peers at times, they rotate through activities based on their individualized schedules, working towards their personal goals. At the end of the block, all of my students take an Exit Ticket (please see the "Daily Exit Tickets" strategy video) to measure their mastery. This allows me to track their growth and to plan how to support students who need additional practice.
Through peer learning, students work together to practice skills and complete their independent practice. Through constant positive narration and coaching over best practices in peer learning, students are developing the skills needed to successfully collaborate and learn from other students.
In order to keep the group of students working independently, we have a class tutor who helps with both behavior management and helping students problem solve through their math practice. I select students who demonstrate mastery of the content and also responsibility to manage a class, allowing different students to try during different rotations/classes. The student walks around, helping students troubleshoot through technical issues and math questions as well. Additionally, they have control over the ClassDojo system, awarding students postive points and giving "needs work" points as well.
Student-Led Homework Review is a form of differentiation, where students with the same level of homework collaborate and review their homework assignment from the prior night. Since it would take too long to have teacher-led reviews for each group, we have students share their answers and help each other figure out the correct answers with their peers. Though I sometimes give them answer keys, I push students to discuss problems and figure out the correct solutions through their reasoning skills. This process encourages collaboration and accuracy in students' homework practice.
While students work on online practice problems, they use white boards to support their practice and show their work. When using white boards, students are very excited and engaged, being able to erase all or part of their work quickly to determine the right answer for their problem. They have the blank space available to show whatever they need - a model, drawing, calculation, or even explanation.
I use the Turn and Talk strategy to get my students to discuss mathematical concepts. Given the shift to using technology (both in and out of the classroom), my students are becoming more and more used to sitting behind a screen and only interacting with the virtual world. I utilize Turn and Talks during lessons to build conversational and interpersonal skills. These quick conversations help students explain their thoughts and practice their articulation skills.
Whole Group Exploration is a form of whole group instruction where we work with conceptual models to understand the algorithm behind solving math problems. Students work with whiteboards at the carpet as we discuss and work through a series of problems that build and understanding of our skill. As students successfully prove that they are ready to work independently, I dismiss them to their seat with our practice, keeping the students who need additional support to go through more practice problems. This strategy allows me to give more support to students who need it and release students who are ready to excel.
At the end of each class period, we spend time celebrating the soft skills students exhibited throughout class. Rather than focusing on academic achievements such as tests, we shout out students who show our core values, such as persistence, responsibility, or empathy. This way students get a chance to recognize one another for their support throught class. This ritual also positively reinforces these values, as students feel successful when they get a shout out.
I use Daily Exit Tickets to assess mastery of the day's objectives and to make sure students have a clear understanding of how they're doing. Students answer a few targeted questions on a Daily Exit Ticket, and the following day we review mastery shown by each student and celebrate their achievement (please see the "Data Review" strategy video). I read out each student's name who achieved mastery, and we quickly celebrate to recognize their hard work. For the students who have not reached mastery yet, this motivates them to keep striving to get that checkmark on the board. Rather than just using outdated student data from summative assessments, Daily Exit Tickets give me and my students a quick read on how they're growing throughout the week. Though these mini-assessments do not connect to my grading system, they allow me to track my students' daily progress throughout each week.
I group my students into three proficiency groups - Mild, Medium, and Spicy. This is a system of general differentiation that allows me to easily assign practice or even homework. Students know their level and know that the assigned practice is likely best for them. Their level is also assigned to them based on various factors, including benchmark assessments, formative assessments, and informal observations made in class on a daily basis. I encourage my students to challenge themselves to try a "spicier" level when they're ready. This gives students the flexibility to try harder material and excel at an appropriate and personalized pace.
Remedial small group instruction is a strategy used to address the needs of students who are behind. In order to support students in mastering foundational skills, I pull small groups of students who all require practice with a same skill. We go through a mini-lesson, sometimes using added supports like technology or manipulatives, working to master the skill and allow the student to fully access content taught to the whole group. This strategy is really important for my blended classroom, as I can thus deliver personalized lessons based on the skillsets that students have.
While the majority of students are working on leveled online practice, I pull groups for leveled interventions. In these targeted small gropus, I give support to students practicing the same level so they can advance to the next level. We identify the skill at hand, work on some practice problems using white boards, and then spend time working on the online practice individually. Students have the opportunity to collaborate, supporting each other in figuring out the skill to pass the level.
Assessment and data play a crucial role in a blended teacher’s classroom. Blended learning gives teachers an opportunity to assess consistently throughout a class, in a way that drives instruction, impacts grouping, and assignments. Blended educators have to develop capacity to sift through multiple sources of data and synthesizes quickly into action. Check out how Stephen utilizes Assessment and Data here.
Data Review is a strategy I use to keep my students motivated to master our Math skills. Every day before class, I place a check mark by the names of students who have mastered a skill according to the previous day's Exit Ticket (please see the "Daily Exit Tickets" strategy video). During class I call out the names of students who have made progress towards mastery (only focusing on positive feedback), and we publicly celebrate those students who have reached mastery on skills that we're focusing on in that particular week. This quick cheer gives students a sense of gratification and success for their previous day's work. As for my students who haven't yet reached mastery, they hear about their peers' successes and consequently feel motivated to work harder to get a check mark for the following day. Because of the power of this quick public feedback, my students are invested in the work that they do throughout the day and the Exit Ticket they take at the end of each class. Data Review helps them see the connections between their daily effort and progress and the achievement of their overall goals.
1:1 interventions take place with students who are far below grade level. Though we try to keep them exposed and practicing grade level content, I need to meet with these students additionally to spiral in remediation support so they can better access the content we learn as a class.
The mastery tracker displays individual progress towards all 5th grade math goals. In order to ensure that all students work towards the standards that we are held accountable to (regardless of pacing), we track progress and celebrate our achievements. This also allows for easy grouping for small group instruction as well as planning for future reteaches. Students can demonstrate mastery through our formative and summative assessments, knowing that the practice they work on between assessments helps them achieve such mastery.
At the end of each activity, the class comes together, evaluates, and gives a percentage for how we performed during the activity. We keep in mind several factors - how we did in progressing towards mastering the objective at hand, our participation as a group, and the extent which we meet behavioral expectations overall. At the end of the class, we average our percentages, and reflect on our performance in the day. This ensures that the students understand their performance as well as work as a team to push their percentage higher.