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.
At the beginning of each Independent Learning Zone class session, I do a quick review of Independent Learning Zone Expectations. This strategy encourages the whole class to come together as a community with common expectations in mind before students begin working independently for the remainder of the class.
Students are being asked to create, think, read and write and increasingly higher levels and standards. Being able to reach kids at their ZPD is critical to making sure they meet and hopefully exceed these standards. When students are working collaboratively, they are learning teamwork, practicing CCSS speaking and listening skills and learning from each other - all essential elements for instructing the whole child. It is important for students to have the opportunity to experience and practice using different learning modalities.
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.