At any given time at my class, student grouping is fluid and ever-changing. A brief whole group lesson focuses on collaborative lessons and reviewing concepts. Students self-assess to determine how they will practice new skills, and what level of support they need. I also employ a model of individualized learning paths that I named Workshop, where students choose the way in which they will learn. Students who need help are grouped for that day in Tutoring, while others have their pick over a variety of websites such as IXL, FrontRow, and TenMarks, online re-assessments, collaborative activities, projects, and more. Student reflection is essential to making that much choice, work.
Number of Students: 26 students
Number of Adults: one teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 90minutes (Math Block)
Digital Content/ Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: i-Ready; IXL; MangaHigh; Website; FrontRow; Kahoot!; BrainGenie; Poll Everywhere; TenMarks; Google Apps for Education
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: five iPads; five desktop computers; five laptop computers; two Galaxy Tabs; SMARTBoard
Key Features: competency-based; student agency;individualized learning paths; online homework; gamification
A blended teacher’s personal mindsets shape her decisions as an educator. These mindsets influence general pedagogies, instructional approaches, and short-term decision making, alike. Check out how Daniel’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 Daniel 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.
This collaborative strategy is simple but effective. Students roam the room finding new questions to answer together, and scan the code with an iPad to check their work. Then, they put all the answers together to unlock a secret code. The use of QR codes in class has greatly improved the effectiveness of student work because of their ability to stop and check their answers. Their enthusiasm for this activity is clear, and making it into a competition of sorts makes it all the more fun. I utilize the QR codes in everything from directions to links to activities. Still, my favorite use is monitoring groups during QR code breakers.
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 Daniel uses specific digital content and ed tech tools!
Storybird is an amazing, free, online software that allows students to create their own stories using real artist's works and collaborate and share among their class. In math, it is always essential to get students to appreciate the real world contexts in which their work is derived. Storybird allows students to incorporate literacy and their own interests into the math that we are working on. It also allows for feedback from the teacher to make sure that the math value that students are getting out of their stories is pure and real. Students must work within a rubric to develop a starting number sentence or operation into a real context. The deep discussions around verbs and operations that occurs is invaluable for a synthesis of the math concepts. Oh, and it is reallly fun to read each others!
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.
Brain Power is a strategy my students and I use to promote a classroom culture of risk-taking, resilience, and collaboration. Early in the year, I teach my students to wiggle their fingers towards their peers who are thinking of an answer or trying to correct an incorrect response. This strategy creates wait time and encourages my students to continue their thinking process without giving up.
Dojo Dollars is the name given to the online class economy powered by ClassDojo. ClassDojo.com is a free, online management system where students can recieve points or deductions for classroom actions. Students' Class Dojo points become Dojo Dollars they can spend for supplies, class time and special activities in this great example of a classroom economy. I have fused this with my Pillars of Power as well as class expectations like move with speed and the use of Synergy in collaboration. As students earn points, they transfer to Dojo Dollars on Friday. They can spend their money at the store to buy nerdy things, or buy class time to do other activities that they are interested in. The system allows me to have an accurate picture of class behavior, while making it easy to focus on the positive behaviors I see. The easy parent communication and messaging features also allow for quick, seamless communication.
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 Daniel's culture impacts student achievement!
Fluency is important, and finding the time to practice it in class can be tough. Fortunately, my students and I came up with Face Off, a simple, gamefied way to practice multiples and other fluency. 3 students must participate, where two students meet eyes and count off multiples until one makes a mistake. The third person moderates with an answer sheet. This can be modified to practice multiplication facts, division, or fraction operations. I create official FaceOff times where we actually play a "season" and work through a tournament style competition, with students advancing as they defeat their peers. This investment is great, but the fact that it runs itself is even better for me! Students often can be seen Face-ing Off in line in the Cafeteria, on the way to Specials, or in the neighborhood.
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.
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.
The basketball problem is a built in way to teach the students about rigor. At the beginning of the year, we discussed how math is like an onion. There are many layers and each one is more complex than the last. The "shot" is an opportunity to reward risk-taking and get the students really thinking about the most high-complexity questions that I can ask. For this reason, students are doubly invested in this part of class. One because they want to challenge themselves, and two because they want to get up there and take the shot.
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 Daniel plans for instruction in his blended classroom.
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.
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.
This is where the magic happens. Using my formative assessment data, as well as online content data, I pull students from Workshop to Tutoring each day. This targeted lesson allows me to reinforce ideas, and fix misconceptions as well as give an opportunity for students to feel like they are getting from me what they need. Branding is important to me, and Tutoring seemed like an ideal way to frame the station for the students. In reality, that is exactly what it has become, with students asking questions and embracing their past mistakes as opportunities for growth.
Workshop is a powerful strategy that provides my students with a degree of choice in how they learn the content in my blended learning classroom. It is also a method of holding them accountable for their choices. I believe that it's important for my students to learn how to manage their time and how to evaluate their learning options so that they can grow closer to taking charge of their own education. Each day, student groups receive "tallies"--ratings for moving quickly, making smooth transitions, and employing responses that feature academic vocabulary and professionalism. I use these tallies to determine the order in which student groups select their blended learning stations on the following day.
Rotations for Practice is a way to deliver new content in small, controlled doses in a station rotation context. Unlike Workshop, where students are more fluid and learning at their own pace, Rotations for Practice is done with groups that cycle to various stages of understanding of a concept. These stations always include a collaborative product, teacher led instruction, and practice or learning on technology.
CSI Time is an inquiry based strategy where students must solve a "math mystery" that introduces a concept that we will learn. They have until the end of the week to collaboratively (with their detective partner) discover the clues and work their way to the "criminall". In just 10 minutes, students have worked themselves into a frenzy to grapple with content they may not already know what to do with. This desire to problem solve pushes students during the lesson that follows to learn the skills they need to solve the mystery.
Yoda Master is a way for students to learn, practice, and assess a skill that they previously did not master. Students utilize the Workshop strategy in a variation: everyone is remediating a past skill. They first access their formative data trackers and choose a skill they did not master. Then they create a playlist using approved resources and incorporating their learning styles. The teacher will approve the playlist and students begin the process. They have to check back in with the teacher once they have gone through the Learn, Teach, Practice,and Retake steps. The teacher serves as a true facillitator in this strategy, and can still pull groups or do data chats. This is the ultimate level of student agency and self driven learning!
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.
Sometimes the only thing holding students back is practice time. It's amazing how much they can get done when they get themselves into a work frenzy. During Rapid Fire, we create a "controlled crazy" by playing techno music while students work in pairs to solve as many computation problems as possible in five minutes. This is a great strategy to use before taking the lesson to word problems, and provides a break from sitting quietly and attentively during the lesson. There is also always an element of choice in what the students want to focus on, helping them to adjust their self-evaluation for later on.
At the end of the lesson, when it comes time to practice, my students find themselves at varying levels of success with the material. Some of my students have mastered material, while others need more guidance. I teach my students how to use Robert Marzano's scale of self-assessment, which allows them to rate their level of need. In our class, each level of the scale corresponds to a mode of practice, including teacher guidance, peer tutoring, online practice, and enrichment.
Kahoot! is a collaborative strategy aimed at reinforcing a lesson's core concepts through a fun, game-like atmosphere. It produces instant data, which allows Daniel to use it as a check for understanding. Daniel's students work in groups to answer a question that is projected on the Smart Board. To submit their answers, they use an iPad, which transmits data to the Kahoot! website.
Teachers need feedback from their students constantly to make good decisions. One way I check what my students brains are doing is through Post it Power. This strategy involves students writing an answer to either a reflective question or math problem that will illuminate their understanding. Using this information, I get a powerful, visual snapshot of the class that helps me to make decisions about the following days' lesson.
Plickers are an online check for understanding procedure where students can answer multiple choice questions. Students are each assigned a "plicker" or paper clicker that enables them to respond based on how they are holding it. The training for it's use is quick, and we can use a tablet to instantly record the results. The results can be uploaded and tracked for even more data! This ability to stop instruction to see how students are doing is essential to having a flexible and student-need based classroom. Plickers allows me to get real time data and make decisions that make me a better time manager and allows me to potentially see misconceptions.
Poll Everywhere is a reflective tool that we use in my classroom to get insight into each other's thoughts, opinions, and answers. Essentially, students on any technology can open a specific or the permant poll question and respond throughout the day. Sometimes, we even do a wordle reflection to get a "pulse check" of how students feel about the content. The students often use Poll Everywhere during Marzano's practice or Workshop to leave advice or share a success or failure with their students. The thinking here is it is important for students to feel like they have an avenue to reflect, and that what they want to say can be useful for others. It helps us to foster a sense of true collaboration and community.
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 Daniel utilizes Assessment and Data here.
Since my students use several different online platforms to personalize their learning, it is crucial that my students review outcomes and trends in their technology usage. Once a week, the class meets to celebrate achievements by "shouting out" students with high performance and also hold students accountable by "calling out" students who have not spent enough time doing problems correctly. Topics that show lower levels of mastery are reviewed and explained, and upcoming assignments are previewed. This is also the time when I respond to the questions my students have asked via the platforms' messaging systems.
At the end of the day, there have been ups and downs, but the focus should be on improvement. The Class Ratings are when the students rate the class on each of our 5 character and mindset pillars. While I have input, I encourage the students to be honest with themselves and take responsibility if they showed or lacked the pillars at any point. Reflecting on the day's specific moments helps to create a classroom of trust, and a culture of accountability. It is also essential to developing a shared character language that can be refered to throughout the day.
Part of building a reflective classroom is giving students the space to reflect on all aspects of their learning from their behavior to the resources in the room. Goal setting is a way to teach this expectation, whole group, to students early in the year, and as a way to focus them during it. Each Monday, students write a Goal post it that has some sample questions to guide students. Ultimately, students can select their own topic, and that free range takes time to nurture into SMART goals. Many students write something like "listen in class" but when we discuss on Tuesday and say "Did you reach this goal?" the answer is not measureable. We want our students to see goals as a procedure that can guide their self-driven learning, not as a reaffirmation of the teacher's thoughts or wants for the student.