At Aspire Titan Academy, we use a rotational model where some students engage with interactive software, enabling small group lessons for others. Our students have 90 to 120 minutes of individual computer time daily. Our rotational model is currently evolving to use more programs and create more rotations. The goal is to increase the opportunities for small group instruction where we can better meet individual needs.
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: 60 minutes--two 30 minute rotations (Math Block)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: DreamBox
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: Lenovo ThinkPads (1:2 ratio); SMARTboard; Document Camera; iPad (for teacher)
Key Features: station rotation; student agency
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 Freddy communicates and collaborates with both her colleagues at school and his students' families and how his methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.
Every Friday we meet to discuss a topic around character development and 21st century skills. This is a vital classroom practice in my class. Because blended learning is so high paced and intense, students need support as not only learners but people as well. Students transition from their seats to prepare to watch videos or form a circle around the perimeter of our carpet. Our council pieces are brought out. Council pieces are small items that both the students and I have brought which hold major meaning to us. Once we meet, the only person who can speak is the one holding the council piece. We begin by making a dedication to someone in our life or someone we have beeng thinking about. At the end of the dedications, we begin our council. The talking piece is passed around and all students share their thoughts or may pass. Sometimes we will bring an on-demand journal to share, or students may respond to a posed question.
In the Heads Together strategy, my students huddle in pre-determined teams at the beginning or end of a lesson to discuss a question, give each other advice, or decide on a response collaboratively. I use this quick strategy to give my students consistent opportunities to engage in productive group work throughout each class period.
Numbered heads is a practice we use to randomize and create an element of excitement at the beginning of lessons/investigations. Each student draws a random number from their team cups to start lessons once a week.
Students self monitoring- At the closing of each session students turns and talk to their neighbor about how their session went, what went well, and what a challenge was. This is done so students have support for their sessions, and so the teacher can visually evaluate how the students feel they are doing. The self monitoring also helps students consider what their next steps should be, as well as offer up suggestions on who to ask for help with certain lessons or who the 'ask an expert' go to would be.
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 Freddy plans for instruction in his blended classroom.
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.
Color Teams are teams that students form themselves within the rotation groups that I have created. Students usually work in their Color Teams when we conduct a group task. When students are working in their teams, I encourage them to use academic discourse and math vocabulary words. Given that students spend a significant amount of time working independently on digital content in my blended classroom, Color Teams are an important structure to foster productive group work among my students.
Start, Result, Change is a strategy students use during math investigations to help them process what is hapenning in word problems. Using the parts or information students identify as being present, this strategy is a scaffold which enables students to process and consider what our next steps to solving a problem will be. Do we need to find the start, change, or the result?
Each of my students is given the option to use different notepads, lined or grid paper, and scratch paper we have. This strategy is implemented to develop students' ability to convey understanding using models or ideas that they have when using our math software. Students in this clip are given ideas about how to express their thinking using our math strategies card along the computer. Students use the notepads or paper to refer back to their previous notes, and to also help one another by referring back to notes where applicable.
The Math Journal startegy is a closing sequence I use as an ongoing informal assessment at least twice a week. I typically collect at least five journals and respond back to students by writing positive praise and/or a question to have them answer about their answer. I will also conduct a quick visual check by walking around at the conclusion of a math journal session and place a sticker, grade, or smiley face on each student's journal. The Math Journal is a very open constructive tool students can use to develop their mathematical writing prowess and reinforce mathematical vocabulary.
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 Freddy utilizes Assessment and Data here.
This (bi-weekly/tri-weekly) strategy is used to incentivize, motivate, and support my students in truly taking ownership for their own learning. During each Blended Learning Data Chat, I recognize students who are consistently performing at the highest levels (Top-5) per program with a certificate and a small prize of their choice like a book, poster, or eraser. I then have the highest performing students come up so we can take a group selfie (with a selfie stick, of course), and then print each student a copy of the picture. The last part of the Blended Learning Data Chat is the recognition and celebration of our top performers who receive a certificate and take a picture to take home. They also receive a poster, eraser, book, or small prize of their choice for their effort and consistency.
Each week the boat on our ‘Treasure BL Wall’ is moved across three islands until the boat reaches the final island where a treasure awaits the class with a hidden treasure. Once we have reached the treasure the hidden prize usually is something like a popcorn party, movie. pizza party, game time party, or class-selected incentive. This is the last part of the reflection. This part involves students deciding if we should or should not move our blended learning tracking tool towards our end goal. Our tracking tool in my class is the treasure blended learning wall, where students can see their progress and can view blended learning in a game-like way. The game involves students versus fictional characters on our map who are trying to get to the goal before we can.
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 Freddy’s mindsets have helped to shape his blended instruction.
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 Freddy uses specific digital content and ed tech tools!
A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Freddy’s culture impacts student achievement!
Within my blended learning classroom, students transition between computers and their desks or the carpet at least twice during every class period. To ensure that we don't lose valuable time during these transitions, I have implemented a structured process to support my students in moving from one station to another. When it's time for transition, I call out the name of a station, and the students in the appropriate group call out their group's name, indicating to me that they know where they are going. As students rotate onto the computers, they know that they should walk counter-clockwise, starting from the scratch paper area to their work areas.
This strategy is called Blended Learning Timekeeper. The BL Timekeeper circulates and focuses on looking for students who are moving with urgency and purpose. This strategy emphasizes focus and motivation. Since we implemented this strategy in our class, the students are logging on faster, as they want to be an 'urgency all-star'.
This strategy helps to lighten the mood and get everyone moving. Students in a blended learning class at the elementary level need time to take a break from blended learning at various moments and engage with each other.This strategy facilitates the opportunity to lower the affective filter and have students engage in academic and non-academic conversations. We review the expectations for the transition and what their next steps are when they find a partner. Students spontaneously select a partner, put their hands up together in the air, and keep them there once everyone has a partner. we then decide by height and shirt color who will share first. Any students remaining are paired up accordingly. The song playing serves as a signal about when to go and when to stop moving.
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.
This strategy is a small group guided instruction, or in student friendly language, team time with Mr. Esparza. A group of 3-4 students is pulled as other teams are conducting a differentiated math investigation. Students are given a selection of materials to create models and formulate ideas. We work as a collective to identify our misconceptions by asking ourselves questions, explaining why, and checking for understanding. As a scaffold, students use hand signals and our learning goal success rubrics to check themselves for understanding throughout the process.
During the Problem Solving Investigation, students are in their teams and are delegating/agreeing on what their next steps and strategies will be during a problem solving investigation. Once they are ready to begin they show the teacher a silent signal, in this case a thumbs-up. They are then dissmissed to begin their investigation using manipulatives and materials they have are given/may select from. During this time each student is given a randomized role based on their drawn number for the session. Then students select strategies to solving the problem and collaborate using the strategies they've selected from our marh strategies card. Once they agree they provide feedback or ask questions in ways to proceed forth/close out the investigation task. The students identify their next steps and are in control of their own learning. I implement this strategy to catalyze stronger teamwork skills and lifelong collaborative abilities.This strategy is developing skill sets students will need in the upper grade levels as well as in college. Basic interpersonal communication and academic language profficiencies can only flourish when ample opportunities are created in the classroom.
When a student is working on the computers, they may ask a peer for help if they haven't successfully figured out how to solve a problem. I emphasize trying something first on your paper to explain what you have tried to your buddy, and ask for ideas they may have. Given the adaptive nature of our BL software, many students are encountering difficult content. I want my students to teach each other how to overcome challenges and persevere. This helps to create a sense of unity along with our motivational BL wall.
This strategy is a biweekly problem solving investigation on recently learned content. Typically students will be given sample scanned answers that I have hand selected. These problems have been previously solved. Students meet on the carpet for the mystery problem reveal. We also cover what the goal of our session will be using a checklist/success rubric. They are then dismissed to investigate in teams. The students select manipulatives to discuss, develop an agreed upon idea, and critique which student(s) response they agree with/why. If a team finishes early they can work on they "Step ahead" which is harder differentiated task. Finally they use the checklist to self reflect if they were successful during the mystery problem session.
Since we use a preselected curriculum for math, the majority of data is collected and analyzed using the highlighted resources. Being a blended learning school we know it's important to look at multiple sources of data and consider where our students are at at that time whether at the start, midpoint, or end of a unit. Using each assessment as a snapshot of where students are at in order to plan/prioritize for both online and offline instructional strategies/steps is my main focus. (See screencast for further information)
At the conclusion of our team sessions my students self-assess, give feedback/compliments to one another, and agree or share out their disagreements with one another. Our two areas of focus right now are collaboration and accountability. My students score themselves on a scale from 1-4 on these habits and then track their progress daily/weekly in order to consider their next steps or provide feedback to one another. Perhaps most importantly, the sentence stems within the rubric help my students develop a repertoire of conversational skills they will need in the 21st century and beyond.
This strategy is implemented prior to our BL chat, as an on demand writing/quick write. Students are given a prompt on reflecting on their recent blended sessions, for example, A success I am having is_____, and a concern I am having is_____, prior to viewing our data. Once students are ready to share they pair up randomly in groups of 2-3 and debrief their concerns and solutions, or answer the prompt that day. I note what their concerns are, then we strategize how we can address them as a class, who are the students we can reach out to for help. Then we close by sharing/celebrating their successes. We review our class data for each of our (3 main) programs, and the highest performing students, as well as the students who have improved from the last round are rewarded with a blended learning all star certificate and all star selfie picture to take home. The all star performers may select a small educational prize, like a book, bookmark, or poster.This strategy is implemented to have students problem solve around concerns and solutions they are noticing during blended learning or within particular program lessons. These chats are very informal and solution oriented. Students go through a series of questions which aim to instill personal reflection: how have I been doing on I-Ready, My-On, and Dreambox? Why? What am I doing well? What can I do to improve?
The big idea is to connect our data reflections to the next, in order to identify if we have reached our goal as a team.
There are two feedback practices within this strategy video. The first half shows us setting up the expectations and granting randomly assigned roles for the feedback session. Prior to dismissing I try to have students point where they are going to clear up any confusion. The second half shows students using our teamwork rubric sentence stems to write down comments. Students know they are going to use different color markers to write on team posters and give a glow and or a grow for the other team.