SMART House Rules
My co-teachers and I use a simple set of three rules to guide our blended classroom: 1. Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2. Follow directions the first time; and 3. Be prepared. The consistency of these rules is really important for middle schoolers and creates a great culture of learning in our House. We share these rules with students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.
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.
Since I work with 3 large cohorts of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students (100+ students in each cohort) my colleagues and I developed a Town Hall Meeting for the beginning of the year to explain our Rules, Routines, Procedures, and Consequences to the entire cohort at once. Having all of my students on the same system has provided tremendous consistency and stability and created a solid community foundation. Town Hall Meeting is a place where students not only hear the expectations but are encouraged to ask questions or make comments to the entire community. Delivering this presentation once to the entire cohort helps to set the culture in an efficient way.
I frequently have my students play games as part of their learning sessions. Many students only want to play the games and do not think of creating a written records of the problems they are solving or notes on their learning. I ask my students to "split the difference" and go 50/50 on playing and note-taking. It's kind of a misnomer since there really is no "difference" to split, but the strategy makes it clear that my students should be splitting their time equally between playing a game and taking notes during that game.