Split the Difference
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.
Students rarely have the opportunity to show in an authentic what way what they have learned and what they can do with the knowledge they have obtained. To this end, it has been my philosophy to provide students with a task that requires a deeper depth of knowledge rather than traditional paper-pencil assessment. Performance task data that reflects a deeper understanding of content and tasks students to transfer their knowledge to novel situations matters most. As a school community, the transition to a competency based learning model has signaled a change in the way teachers deliver content and the way students are assessed. Independent Performance Tasks measure student learning when they are ready to assess. Similarly, leveraging the power of technology has been instrumental to making the assessment process a positive experience for students.
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.
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.