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.
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.
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 use a variety of hand signals in our classroom to avoid unnecessary disruptions and maintain focus and time on task. Three common hand signals: a signal to use bathroom; a signal for needing scrap paper; and a signal for asking a presenter to speak louder. We introduce all of the hand signals to students at the beginning of the year in a community-wide Town Hall Meeting.