During an Independent Learning Zone session, every student in my blended classroom is working independently on a different set of problems. It's impossible for me to be an answer key for 25 different students doing 25 different problem sets, so I print out their respective answer keys in advance and give each student his or her about 5-10 minutes into the period. This empowers them to monitor their own academic performance and self-correct as they are completing their assigned task.
I use the Closing Bell strategy to bring my students back together as a community at the end of each class to check for understanding, debrief the class, give "grows and glows," and/or preview what we will be doing the following day. Building in this type of closing at the end of class is especially important in a blended classroom when students are spending so much time working independently or in groups.
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.
The core ideas of my classroom are big ideas and themes that run through almost every lesson I teach. They are good math values, work values, life values. Whenever they come up during a lesson, I always explicitly make the connection. Next year, I plan on using a graphic for each value (some kind of eye graphic for core idea #1) to show, in my lessons, where the ideas come up.