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.
I use this strategy to activate my students' interest and prior knowledge on a topic. This gives me a good starting point on the curated video and reading list for the independent station. It also gives my students a visual representation of the range of interests in the class. In my opinion, using the interests of my students to guide instruction is the core of a student-centered classroom.
Initially, the writing product was the major focus in my classroom. I noticed the products overall were not meeting grade level standards. Therefore the focus shifted to the writing process and doing each part of the process well. Giving students the opportunity to choose not only the place but also the pace at which they complete a prompt significantly changed the learning outcomes and products. A self-paced writing prompts give students the option to choose the order in which they will complete the writing prompts assigned for a unit of study. Making the writing prompts self-paced also gives students the freedom and latitude to simultaneously grapple with content and the writing process to produce a quality product.
Daily common planning has been an essential part of the transition from a traditional to a blended classroom. In my model, I essentially co-teach with six other teachers in the large classroom, so we have valued the daily meeting very much for the first three years. We are considering scaling back on the meetings in the future. We use this time to plan logistics, review student data and lesson study.