SMART House Rules
My co-teachers and I use a simple set of three rules to guide our blended classroom: 1. Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2. Follow directions the first time; and 3. Be prepared. The consistency of these rules is really important for middle schoolers and creates a great culture of learning in our House. We share these rules with students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.
In my blended and personalized classroom, I rely heavily on software and digital platforms to guide and supplement my instruction. At the same time, I believe that my students still need to practice traditional paper and pencil skills. Graphic organizers have long been used to help students organize content. In my classroom they are primarily used as a pre-writing tool. The mix of using the digital platforms and paper-pencil gives my students the opportunity to practice both skills simultaneously.
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.
My colleagues and I have students write a Synopsis of their learning after every Independent Learning Zone period as well as after Live Investigations. The Synopsis acts as a reflective tool for both large and small concepts. I often tell my students to write what they actually learned or improved upon, not what they THINK I want them to write. I train my students to make a space for the Synopsis in their notebook headings. Occasionally, I will have my students read their Synopses out loud, but most often I walk around and do a quick check, as they are mostly a personal reflection for my students.