When I decided to try blended learning last year, I started with math because that’s where I saw the greatest frustration among my students. I had been teaching lessons mostly whole group to 34 students with very different needs. During guided practice, my two super advanced students were done with the problem within seconds and read novels while I hopped between the other 32 students to address their misconceptions. (I never told those students to “read when they were done.” It was obvious they had used this tactic for years to cope with a system that isn’t built to address their advanced abilities). By the end of the practice session, my most struggling student was in tears because my classroom tour never stopped at his desk to help him.
First, I tried a 70-minute math block like this:
While this model did allow me to pull a small group of students who did not understand the lesson, the more advanced students finished their work so quick during this time that they started to get off task. I didn’t have time to make new centers for them every day and more worksheets would have been a bore. Plus, by always pulling the students who needed help, my advanced students were not getting the attention they needed to stay at their higher level.
So, I took the 70-minute block and divided it into four 15-minute sessions. Students are grouped by their math level and I meet with each group every day. There are about 8 or 9 students in each group and they follow a rotation like this:
I gave the groups STEM-like names like hackers and scientists. The students really like these names, which help create a sense of team among each group. Here’s what my final blended learning station rotation math block looks like:
The biggest difference between my first schedule and this one is the decrease in whole group instruction. I still check in with the class at the beginning and end but the real teaching and practicing is done in small groups. Also, the addition of the adaptive computer software means that students are really getting a double dose of differentiated instruction every day: one in person and one electronically.
I found that students are more engaged, more productive, and more successful since we switched to this model. They like that the small group teacher-led lessons are at their pace and provide the scaffolds or extensions necessary for their levels. I get to know their strengths and weaknesses, which inform my instruction in later lessons. Every minute of instruction is purposeful and my students never have the opportunity to drift off like they used to during whole group. It’s harder to hide from the teacher when there’s only eight students 🙂