The model we have today is designed to increase the quality of small group instruction. We focus our instruction for core subjects with smaller groups so we are better able to individualize learning to meet their needs. For the first grade, we use a rotational model in both math and ELA, which provides students about 90 minutes of individual computer time daily. During teacher-led instruction we encourage students to sit in pairs or small groups and use think-pair-share strategies to lead their own conversations and engage with the material being presented.
Number of Students: 26 students
Number of Adults: one teacher; various other adults support during specific times (e.g., Blended Learning Coordinator, Special Education Teachers, etc.)
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 90 minutes (Reading and Writing Block)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: MyOn; i-Ready
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: Lenovo ThinkPads (1:2 ratio); SMARTboard; Document Camera; iPad (for teacher)
Key Features: station rotation; student agency
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 Raul’s mindsets have helped to shape his blended instruction.
Room to Read is strategy I use to get my students to move to a specific location so that they can be comfortable and not be in the way of others. I mostly use this strategy when my students have additional materials with them during instruction in a limited space such as the rug. Room To Read ensures that my students won't be distracted by other students' materials in their personal spaces and can focus on following along with the lesson.
My school's Blended Learning Coordinator was hired to provide blended learning support. He is provided with our schedules so that he can monitor usage and provide support if needed. While this does not mean that he is present in the classroom daily throughout the use of BL, he does try to walk around and address immediate concerns that students may need addressed. If immediate action is required a quick text can be sent to him and he'll make his way towards the classroom as well.
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 Raul 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.
Our Two Cents is a strategy to increase student discourse and have students respond to questions with more justification, reasoning, and elaboration. Giving their "two cents" refers to them giving more than a one-word response or more than one example. Adding Two Cents to a basket serves as an incentive to my students to elaborate on their responses without much prompting from me. The incentive for students can be determined by the teacher or by the members of the class so that they are motivated to push themselves rather than the teacher always pushing students.
Warm Welcomings is a strategy I use to develop a strong positive culture in my blended classroom. When students enter into an inviting atmosphere and begin the class on a positive note, they are able to focus better. It is important to me to start off class together on the rug because my students spend a significant portion of the class working independently on computers and in small groups. Warm Welcomings gives us the time to come together as a community of scholars and it can be anything from a "welcome back from recess" to an invitation for students to share something positive about their time away from class.
This is an excel document that is projected during shared inquiry. Each time that a student shares a comment, question, or any other type of substantial response in the group's conversation, a cell is filled to create a bar graph that is easily identifiable by students. It informs them and myself about the participation levels and motivates students to give more to a conversation.
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 Raul’s culture impacts student achievement!
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.
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.
Planning is an essential part of a blended teacher’s practice. In blended environments, where students can be at different points in a course learning on various modalities, blended teachers need to be very intentional about how they plan. Check out the video below to see how Raul plans for instruction in his blended classroom.
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.
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.
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.
Struggling readers often struggle for various reasons. These can include a lack of understanding of phonics skills or not knowing the grade level sight words. This strategy shows a student undergoing a round of sight word practice by having him read a word on a card or post-it. This strategy allows the student to self assess by sorting words that he can read or can't read. By providing a visual of how many he knows versus how many he doesn't know allow him to feel successful, but at the same time understand that before his "I Can Read" pile grows larger, he will need to study all the difficult words he didn't know.
EEKK Think Pair Share is a fun variation on a traditional Think, Pair, Share that is useful for younger students. As an indicator to my students that they must engage in discussion with one another, I will say "Go EEKK," which stands for "elbow, elbow, knee, knee." Students recite the simple chant, “Elbow, elbow, knee, knee” and face each other knee-to-knee in the process to discuss whatever topic I have chosen. The EEKK strategy gives my students a structured way for engaging in collaborative, on-topic academic discourse.
Graphic organizers of all sorts are used in every classroom. Guided Reading should be no exception. This strategy is not meant to focus on one type of graphic organizer, but rather on how a graphic organizer can be used to support students in accessing the text to make meaningful connections and form meaningful conversations about the text.
The quick search feature can be a great resource for students. The quick search poster can easily be made to list the topics you want students to search for. While there are book lists that can be created in programs such as MyOn, having students use the search feature gives students some flexibility in what they read while staying on topic.
One of my goals as a first grade teacher is to develop independent learners that can problem solve or decide when it is time to request assistance from others. Self-reliance is a need that many parents talk to me about during conferences and as a result, I've turned to two different strategies in the classroom that allow students to continue their work while informing me of their comfort level of the task. These strategies are known as self monitoring tools that help me to prioritize which students I need to assist first.
The decoding boards, which are your basic dry erase boards, help students visually see what their brains do as they read which is looking for blends, digraphs, long/short vowels etc. Rather than simply reading off the board, I have students write the words we practice in phonics and write the diacritical marks that support and show them how to decode words along the way that then support their reading.
I make sure that my students have heard the directions I've given using this simple but effective check for understanding strategy. Having students repeat directions or an expectation provides them with an opportunity to re-state or clarify their understanding. For example, if a student responds incorrectly, I don't just move on to another student all the time. I ask the same question in a different way so that my student who initially responded incorrectly, unclearly, or incompletely has another opportunity to answer with more clarity. Thumbs Up, I Get This! is another way to hold students accountable during their independent time.
Flash Fluency is a strategy I use during guided reading sessions to make immediate adjustments to my instruction, based on my students' needs. To gather the information I need, I give a reading fluency check to one student from the group using a current or cold read text. The student reads for one minute while I keep track of miscues and make observations. It is followed by a quick comprehension check. Once this is completed, I address the student's needs immediately with the entire small group. Since my reading groups are homogenous, one student's needs are generally reflective of the needs of the other students in the group.
Flash Fluency Glows and Grows is a debriefing of a student's one-minute reading fluency check during guided reading. It provides immediate feedback to the student about their reading by addressing highlights in their reading as well as skills that still need practicing. This brief feedback session allows teachers to address the immediate needs of not just the student, but potentially that group of students.
Wonder Word is a quick review game where I take phonics strategies that have been previously taught and integrate them into a game of hot potato. Basically, words are passed around in a circle and when the chant is over, students have to be able to read the word. There are no real consequences if a student is unable to read it, and can ask a friend to help. The idea is that students can quickly recall and demonstrate what they know.
In Teacher Vs. Students, students compete against the teacher in a quick game of listening and participation. Typically we play this game after a general phonics rule has been taught and students have to practice hearing it for phonological practice. Rather than me just reading a word asking them to identify the sound, I am using the taught rule(s) and turning into a game of friendly competition to show that they are smarter than the teacher. It's important though, to be honest. If I win, I explain what they should practice more of and then try it again another day.
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 Raul utilizes Assessment and Data here.
I teach students how to read by focusing on the use of phonics rules to decode words of all types. Phonics Word-Coaching is a strategy where students refer back to the various strategies they've learned. Through the use of diacritical marks to label specific sounds in words, students take apart words and reblend them in order to read the words. The idea behind it is that eventually students will recognize these strategies without having to actually write the diacritical marks and are able to do it by sight. It's fact fluency for the reader.
The vocabulary game is a way for students to practice word meaning embedded at the end of a phonics lesson. To play, a word, phrase or meaning is given and students need to write the word from the decoded phonics words. Once they have a word written they seek the approval by me with a thumbs up to signal when they wrote the correct word, or a thumbs down to have them try again. The use of the thumb provides an anonymous check for understanding.