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.
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.
To take a quick pulse of the class I may do a fist to five (students hold up a fist if they had difficulties or were unable to get in synch with the rest of class to a five which means they felt successful and are ready to transition to the next station). This Likert scale type voting gives me the opportunity to be responsive to specific student needs and quickly ascertain which students need my immediate attention or which student’s work/submissions I should review. There are also times when I feel it is appropriate to hear from students and give them the opportunity to exercise their student voice. During this exercise I take both volunteers and non-volunteers to give me their “thrills and chills/roses and thorns/high and lows of the day”. I think it is important for students to see me receive critical feedback or praise and be able to appropriately respond. It is extremely powerful for students to make a suggestion on how our class should operate and see it implemented almost immediately.
The core ideas of my classroom are big ideas and themes that run through almost every lesson I teach. They are good math values, work values, life values. Whenever they come up during a lesson, I always explicitly make the connection. Next year, I plan on using a graphic for each value (some kind of eye graphic for core idea #1) to show, in my lessons, where the ideas come up.