Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thematic Planning Part 1

Thematic planning actually started before I knew anything about flipping. Our department always goes to the CCFLT conference each February, and since it was in Colorado Springs, Elyse and I had decided to share a room so we didn't have to drive back and forth. In hindsight, it might have been the best money I ever spent.

We went to a day of sessions, and then started talking about what we thought our kids really needed to learn. What did they need to accomplish at the end of level 1, 2, 3? Why were we pushing all of our kids so hard when a second language was not the end plan for the majority of the students? Why were we following a textbook that didn't teach things in an order that made sense and was full of meaningless vocabulary?

So, we sat down one night and decided what we thought each level needed to learn (keeping state standards in mind of course). Once we came up with a good list of grammar, we thought about what themes we would like to use. To do this, we thought about: 1)what the kids were always trying to say in class, 2)Themes that would encourage them to speak in the target language, 3) Themes that build well on one another to acheive our "learning goals: outlined above, 4) Things we wanted to do in class but didn't fit in with our current curriculum.

It took tons of work. We had many discussions and thought really hard about what would be the best way to help the students achieve success, and hopefully to decide to continue on with their language studies.

Here is what we came up with for levels III and IV:

Spanish III
Mini Review Unit - grammar, vocab, etc at back to school
Unit 1 - Challenges in Teen life
Unit 2 - Fairy Tales and Legends
Unit 3 - The, school, voting *trying to focus on governement
Unit 4  20th Century - Spanish Civil War is a big focus here
Unit 5 - Detective and Crime Stories
Unit 6 - Technology

Spanish IV
Mini Review Unit
Unit 1 - Communities and Culture
Unit 2 - Environment
Unit 3 - Current Events and Media
Unit 4 - Art
Unit 5 - Short Stories
Unit 6 - Games

Flipping my classroom, why??

I wanted to start writing down my experience with the flipped classroom because I am learning so many new things everyday and I wanted to have a place to document what I have done, right and wrong, so that as I go forward I can continue to improve. I also want to share what I have done with others who are thinking about flipping, hopefully this will provide some help/support.

For anyone who finds this who wonders what flipping a classroom is all about, it is basically creating videos of your classroom lectures for students to watch at home and do what is traditionally thought of as homework during classtime.

When I first heard about this, I was intrigued because I knew that I needed to spend more time working on conversation and speaking with my students, but we spent so much time on grammar, I could never give it the attention it deserved. Also, I was giving my lectures using Power Point, and I felt like we wasted so much time waiting for some students to take notes. I had really had enough of "don't change it yet" and "I am still writing it down" and "go back" which of course was a small number of my students, but enough to hold up the rest of the class.

Last year, I also had to teach AP Spanish for the first time, and after going to the training to learn about the test, I realized that our students were in trouble. It wasn't that we hadn't been teaching them enough in AP, or even III, but that they hadn't been doing enough from day 1 in Spanish class.

This training was also eye opening because I realized that there were so many ways that the curriculum needed to improve. There were so many topics that were on the AP exam that we never even really got to in class, and there wasn't enough time to cover all of them during the AP class.

So, as I made my way through last year, I started looking for a new way to do things to optomize my classtime and include all of the topics and concepts that would help my students be able to be more successful on the AP exam if they decided to go that far.

So, at the CCFLT (foreign language) conference in 2010, my favorite German teacher and I attended some sessions together that led us to the idea that we should have thematic units instead of following our text to cover all the topics we knew we needed to get to. As we worked on that, I still searched for more, because being the teacher that loves technology, I knew that there had to be a way to get more done in a way that would appeal to the kids and me.

After much wasted time on the Internet, I stumbled upon the flipped class idea.

I started to think that this might work, an when I discussed the idea, I discovered that my dad, a science teacher, and a Chemistry teacher at my school were also considering the flip.

Luckily, Aaron and Jon, whose website we found, were having a conference last summer not far from home, so my favorite Chem teacher and I made the trek, and I don't think we have looked back yet!