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.
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.
TOAST is an acronym that stands for "Time Owed After School Today." It's a very simple and non-punitive consequence that we implement for students who don't follow the rules: 1) Respect all people, property, and ideas; 2) Follow directions the first time; 3) Be prepared. I make it very clear at the beginning of the year that TOAST does not mean I'm mad at you or that you're a bad person; however, there are consequences for your actions that are not consistent with our community expectations. Paying with time and doing some community service or making a plan to change student actions have been effective ways to turn negative student behavior into a positive.