Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flipping requires students to think

Sounds obvious, right? The more units we do, the more I love the flip and the way it has enabled me to help more students, create better assignments and assessments, and my lessons are more organinzed and every unit includes lots of the 5Cs.

However, needing students to engage their brains seems to be the biggest challenge. I am not talking about the actual lessons....I am talking about the life skills necessary to work with the flip.

The kids, and I teach mostly Juniors, have no idea how to idea how to organize their idea how to organize assignments and make a plan of attack. I have spent as much time talking to my students about these skills as I have talked to them about Spanish.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy to talk to the students about these skills. I am more surprised about the fact that so many of them don't know how to do these things already.

On Friday, I was at an inservice and the played this Tedtalk . It talks about how we are really putting our students through a school 'factory' and that theya re losing their ability to think. This is no more apparent than with the flip, when we are taking students out of their comfort zone of being able to just sit in the class and get good grades. With the flip, I require so much more. The students have to think, they have to organize, they have to put themselves into the work in order to be successful.

For me, it is just one more reason that everyone should flip, or at least look at what they are doing in the classroom and wonder if we really are doing what is best for our students......

Reading, reading and reading

I can't believe it has been a month since I last wrote. Where is the time going?

In the classroom, I have been very busy. At the end of last semester, I decided that the kids needed a planned focused activity to kick off class. So, I chose readers for the kids to work on at the beginning of every class. Now, to do this, I had to depart from the thematic units because it is pretty hard to find something on the kids level for the Spanish Civil war. So, I chose some level 2 Santillana readers for most of my level 3s and a level 3 reader for my super smarty PreAPs. As I talked about in my last post I also started Google Voice at the beginning of the semester.

So, the students have been a little resistant to the change....imagine that. I require them to read for at least the first 20 minutes of every class (we have 90 minute blocks), with the deadline of the end of the unit for them to finish the book. Now, for the first unit, I decreased some of the workload for my regular III classes because I was unsure about how long the reading would actually take.

I knew that the reading would be doable, but challenging, it was a little more challenging for the students than I had though. Even though I have been using short stories from a variety of sources; the textbook, cultural readers, and the Album book, short stories are so much easier to fake your way through. I told the students that they should keep a running summary of what they were reading, and I put the kids in reading groups. I decided not to give the kids comprehension questions for each chapter until they finished the book. One of my biggest issues with the short stories has always been that the kids read only for the answers to the questions.

So, the nuts and bolts- I have four different readers and about 20 kids in every class. I put the kids in groups of 4 by ability. Every group had a different reader.

First, the groups were too big. Only my super-super smarties worked well together. Every group pretty much had one kid read, one kid look up words, and two followers. No matter how I tried, I could not convince the students not to look up every word that they didn't know and to use context clues instead. However, I also couldn't convince them to keep a running list of words that they looked up, especially when they kept looking up the same words over and over.

Second, since I didn't require them to keep the summaries, almost everyone decided not to do it. Therefore, when they went back to describe characters and answer some more specific comprehension questions, they were stuck searching through the book for answers.

Overall, the reading was a success. The students did learn new vocabulary and stopped freaking out when they hit the vosotros form (the books are Spanish). The students were engaged at the beginning of the class period and got right to work.

For the second book, the one in the unit I just started, I have made some adjustments. I am requiring the running summary. I am also requiring that at the midway point of the book, they do some predictions and write down at least 15 new words that they have learned. I had the kids choose their own partner to work with. I am about a week in to the new unit, and I have to say, all of the kids are engaged in the reading. Many did not choose their partners wisely, but some partnerships that I would have thought would have been a disaster seem to be working. This second book is from the Lola Lago detective series, and I think that they are a little easier. There is definitely more action from the beginning, which is making the students interested in the story a little faster. I am hoping that with these adjustments, this book should go better than the first.