Tuesday, August 4, 2015

8 Flips for My New Classroom

Flipped classroom, blended learning, or whatever we want to call it. The common notion is the need to do something different in school because new technology makes it possible. Add to that the willingness to accommodate various learning preferences, and you have the potential to change the look, feel, and flow of a classroom. 


Here are eight flips I made this past school year that I plan to build on in 2015-16.

1. Videos 

I'll never forget what my first principal told me when I mentioned flipped videos. He said, "They want to hear it from you, not watch a video." 

Although I don't lecture for the entire block, I make a point to provide short explanations to connect the activities. For those students who miss class or need repeated review, they can watch the short videos I put on my YouTube channel.

2. Hand Over the Curriculum 

In past years, I thought about giving my students the curriculum to use as a reference. After reading Alan November's Who Owns the Learning, I decided to teach a new set of classroom roles – one of which is the curriculum reviewer.

For the first few years of my teaching career, I was told that kids don't understand how state and program standards read. Now I know that their efforts to understand, along with my guidance, is a learning opportunity we can afford to hand over the the students.

I'm not saying to dissolve the district curriculum committee, but we should expect more from our students and teachers in the area of interpreting curriculum expectations. 

3. Students as Contributors

This is my favorite! One of my goals is to empower students to take over their learning. I try to do this by making them content contributors as often as possible. 

Students can send images, links, and text using Remind Chat. Check out this post to see what happen when I put away my PPT and let my students choose the content.

All the teacher needs to do is provide the topic or question and guide the discussion. 

4. Class Scribe

This flip came right from Alan November's digital learning farm. We had choices about how to implement this role, and we went with Google Docs because we were a GAFE district. 

Students worked in teams comprised of the most enthusiastic volunteers as well as groups in which the roles were rotated so everyone had a chance to practice being the scribe (class note-taker). Other roles in the rotation included curriculum reviewer, fact checker, and global collaborator. 

5. Inquiry-Based Learning 

Asking questions routinely and making thinking visible should not be on this list. It should be the norm, but it's not. As a first-year teacher, I emulated the teachers who taught me the craft and therefore wrote the questions myself – never thinking much about the power of having students write questions.

Two and a half years into teaching, during winter break, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was getting really good at writing questions, which reflected my content knowledge and skill level. As a third-year teacher, this wasn't a terrible place to be, but I knew that the questioning practice and hard work I was doing needed to be placed back on my students – the flip.

6. One Standard, One Grade

I started working with standards-based grading two years ago, but this year was my first for reporting grades in this way. By separating each score by the standard, all stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, admin) can gain a clearer picture of student achievement. In other words, when a student is struggling, there is little to no question about which areas need improvement.

Calculating the summary grade for report cards is a whole other monster. Check out this post on the issues with averaging.  

7. Project-Based Learning

Looking at my file cabinet with each unit ready to be copied for the year, I dug my heals in and decided to skip the worksheets. This decision wasn't based on a fad I picked up from Twitter. It aligned with the realization that I was doing too much of the "making" for each assignment.

We didn't do many big projects. Students made their own maps, made history placards for emergency safety equipment, and presented poetry with digital tools, to name a few.

For each lesson, I reviewed the standards and made note of the big ideas and essential questions. Then, I wrote project expectations based on what I could imagine professionals would do to solve some of the problems. This is the essence of authenticity. 

8. Self-Evaluation

Although I've done a lot of self-evaluation (on the part of the student) in the past, this past year it played a more important role in providing feedback to students.

I added a few critical steps to the process. 
  • When students completed a summative assessment, they ranked their confidence 1-4 for each standard assessed (4 being very confident). 
  • After the papers were marked, I returned them with feedback. 
  • Students then took another look at their standards-based self-evaluation and made adjustments based on my feedback. 
This process helped them dial in their initial evaluations of their work and kept their class work focus connected to the standards. By the third assessment, this routine was in full force to change the culture of our classroom.

What's Next?

The furniture. It needs to be reworked. 

I'm used to having 30 students in a classroom built for 25 max. This has discouraged most of my attempts to change the seating. 

No matter what, I've always had students facing one another with an aisle for easy access between the front and back of the room. But I don't want a front and back. I want spaces that allow students to choose what's best for them. 

Student input has always been important to me. On the topic of furniture, I asked kids to try something different to get a better feel for what they want. A third of them preferred the floor. I thought that was interesting, so I tried it myself. It was relaxing because it was different.

The floor may not be where students want to sit all the time, but a few choices for them will be my goal in 2015-16.

What Else?

Student-made tutorials are a must. Some students like to make videos, while others are happy with slide presentations or posters. Whatever they choose, putting the explanation in their hands opens doors for working with the community, especially other grade levels and different schools. 

EdTech List

Remind
Quizlet
Google Drive
YouTube
Blogger
Verso App
Plickers
Poll Everywhere
Flipagram
Padlet
Google Classroom
Today's Meet

 ... and more.

I know that I am successful when my students can choose which application and device works best for them without compromising the project and learning goals.