I implement a station rotation model in my classroom. On a typical day, following brief whole-class direct instruction, my students will rotate through three blended learning stations: small group instruction, collaborative learning, and independent work. At each station, students work either with a teacher, a group of their peers, or individually towards content mastery. The key levers of my model are student self-pacing and small-group instruction. Through a mix of student choice and teacher facilitation, I have been able to activate my students’ learning and accelerate them towards higher academic achievement.
Number of Students: ~25 students
Number of Adults: one teacher; one paraprofessional
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 45 minutes
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Kahoot!; Plickers; PBWorks; Blackboard; Newsela; Edmodo; BrainPop & BrainPop Jr; Discovery Education Techbook; Padlet; Vimeo; Today’s Meet
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: 25 ASUS T100 laplets with charging cart (1:1); Promethean Board
Key Features: station rotation; student agency
Even with the best set of directions students still needed some guidance or individual assistance. My school currently uses a full inclusion model (Special Education students are included in the general education classes) and SPED students often need additional support. I want all my students to learn to be independent and take ownership of their learning but I also do not want them to "suffer in silence" if they need help or are incapable of access the material. Having a co-teacher adds an extra set of hands and eyes to the classroom and gives my the flexibility to even create multiple classrooms within the class.
In my blended and personalized classroom, I rely heavily on software and digital platforms to guide and supplement my instruction. At the same time, I believe that my students still need to practice traditional paper and pencil skills. Graphic organizers have long been used to help students organize content. In my classroom they are primarily used as a pre-writing tool. The mix of using the digital platforms and paper-pencil gives my students the opportunity to practice both skills simultaneously.
There are an infinite number of digital content providers and tech tools and education programs a blended teacher can choose to use in her classroom. Check out how and why Tanesha uses specific digital content and ed tech tools!
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.
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 Tanesha plans for instruction in her blended classroom.
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.
Even in a 1:1 environment it is essential to provide students with teacher feedback. Students in my class are submitting work electronically and receive feedback in the same format. The challenge has been (as with written feedback on paper) getting students to incorporate the feedback. Conferencing with students gives me the opportunity to have more facetime with students and deconstruct the feedback they have received. Giving students indivudal guidance makes the personalized classroom a reality because students are having a unique exchange with their instructor.
My students respond well to kinesthetics. Popping up for an answer choice or when they are ready to move on to the next topic is a way to keep the students engaged and also check for understanding. Turn and talk - students turn to talk to their neighbor about a question/problem/scenario that was posed. One of the partners then reports out by either being chosen from the equity sticks or by volunteering by putting their thumb up. I use Shoulder Partner strategy to give students the opportunity to talk, share and explain content to each other. This strategy is good to increase the accountable talk in classrooms and to practice speaking and listening skills.
Students are being asked to create, think, read and write and increasingly higher levels and standards. Being able to reach kids at their ZPD is critical to making sure they meet and hopefully exceed these standards. When students are working collaboratively, they are learning teamwork, practicing CCSS speaking and listening skills and learning from each other - all essential elements for instructing the whole child. It is important for students to have the opportunity to experience and practice using different learning modalities.
Initially, the writing product was the major focus in my classroom. I noticed the products overall were not meeting grade level standards. Therefore the focus shifted to the writing process and doing each part of the process well. Giving students the opportunity to choose not only the place but also the pace at which they complete a prompt significantly changed the learning outcomes and products. A self-paced writing prompts give students the option to choose the order in which they will complete the writing prompts assigned for a unit of study. Making the writing prompts self-paced also gives students the freedom and latitude to simultaneously grapple with content and the writing process to produce a quality product.
Students rarely have the opportunity to show in an authentic what way what they have learned and what they can do with the knowledge they have obtained. To this end, it has been my philosophy to provide students with a task that requires a deeper depth of knowledge rather than traditional paper-pencil assessment. Performance task data that reflects a deeper understanding of content and tasks students to transfer their knowledge to novel situations matters most. As a school community, the transition to a competency based learning model has signaled a change in the way teachers deliver content and the way students are assessed. Independent Performance Tasks measure student learning when they are ready to assess. Similarly, leveraging the power of technology has been instrumental to making the assessment process a positive experience for students.
There are times when the work being completed at the independent station is not designed to be completed in one session. I noticed that, while I could get an accurate pulse of the small-group session and collaborative station, assessing the independent station was more challenging. My students are expected to account for the work they did or did not complete during the independent station by commenting on their progress or by talking about something that was interesting or challenging. This is an extremely powerful accountability strategy and also an opportunity for my students to practice their speaking and listening skills.
Feedback is important to student growth and the mastery of content. My students can receive feedback informally in class through whole-class or small-group instruction or formally in writing. I give both types of feedback to my students on their performance to give ongoing and constructive feedback on their progress because I want to take the guesswork out of how each student is doing in class and on what each student needs to do to improve. Using Kahoot!, I can get a quick formative assessment in a way that engages my students.
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 Tanesha’s mindsets have helped to shape her 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 her school. Check out how Tanesha communicates and collaborates with both her colleagues at school and her students' families and how her methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.
I use this strategy to activate my students' interest and prior knowledge on a topic. This gives me a good starting point on the curated video and reading list for the independent station. It also gives my students a visual representation of the range of interests in the class. In my opinion, using the interests of my students to guide instruction is the core of a student-centered classroom.
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 Tanesha’s culture impacts student achievement!
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.
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.
During small group, I am able to give individualized feedback to my students. I want small group to be a safe place where my students can share, ask questions, and be able to learn content and skills authentically. This also gives me the opportunity to clarify misconceptions, to reinforce key learnings by giving my students one-on-one attention and support.
During Personalized Small Group Instruction, I work closely with a small group of students while other students are engaging in activities independently at different stations. Based on my learning objective, I group my students differently for Small Group Instruction every day. Sometimes students are grouped homogeneously, according to specific needs, and sometimes they are grouped heterogeneously. This strategy, which is enabled by my station rotation blended model, allows me to spend individual time with each student on a regular basis.
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.
My students crave independence, but they are sometimes unable to prioritize, monitor, and regulate their progress. My students are also often unable at the beginning of a school year to articulate how or where to start an assignment. This strategy is designed to give my students a model of how to manage their own workflow. Having a Workflow Guide is a good strategy to teach in Social Studies because it gives my students a step-by-step pathway to competency. This strategy is particularly well suited for middle grades because they need an increased sense of agency that allows them work independently as they prepare to transition to high school, college, and their careers.
Even with the wealth of online resources used my classroom students are still exposed to traditional methods of instruction and organization, especially as it pertains to writing. To this end, graphic organizers are used as a way for students to do everything from capture notes to outlining a writing prompt. Students, especially those that are struggling readers often need a visual to help them organize and connect their thoughts.
I use the Closing Bell strategy to bring my students back together as a community at the end of each class to check for understanding, debrief the class, give "grows and glows," and/or preview what we will be doing the following day. Building in this type of closing at the end of class is especially important in a blended classroom when students are spending so much time working independently or in groups.
To take a quick pulse of the class I may do a fist to five (students hold up a fist if they had difficulties or were unable to get in synch with the rest of class to a five which means they felt successful and are ready to transition to the next station). This Likert scale type voting gives me the opportunity to be responsive to specific student needs and quickly ascertain which students need my immediate attention or which student’s work/submissions I should review. There are also times when I feel it is appropriate to hear from students and give them the opportunity to exercise their student voice. During this exercise I take both volunteers and non-volunteers to give me their “thrills and chills/roses and thorns/high and lows of the day”. I think it is important for students to see me receive critical feedback or praise and be able to appropriately respond. It is extremely powerful for students to make a suggestion on how our class should operate and see it implemented almost immediately.
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 Tanesha utilizes Assessment and Data here.