Town Hall Meeting
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.
Formal transitions happen twice during a double-block period. My students have to move from one section of my extra-large classroom (3 classrooms merged into one) and move to another section for a new lesson with a new teacher. My students have two minutes to transition from session to session, and we play a variety of interesting music on the surround sound stereo system to keep it fun.
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.
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.