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.
TOAST is an acronym that stands for "Time Owed After School Today." It's a very simple and non-punitive consequence that we implement for students who don't follow the rules: 1) Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2) Follow directions the first time; 3) Be prepared. I make it very clear at the beginning of the year that TOAST does not mean I'm mad at you or that you're a bad person; however, there are consequences for your actions that are not consistent with our community expectations. Paying with time and doing some community service or making a plan to change student actions have been effective ways to turn negative student behavior into a positive.
During an Independent Learning Zone session, every student in my blended classroom is working independently on a different set of problems. It's impossible for me to be an answer key for 25 different students doing 25 different problem sets, so I print out their respective answer keys in advance and give each student his or her about 5-10 minutes into the period. This empowers them to monitor their own academic performance and self-correct as they are completing their assigned task.
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.