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.
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.
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.
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.