I was reminded again this past summer that Michigan is truly one of the most beautiful places on this planet …
At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, a unique opportunity was presented to my science colleague Jeremy Winsor and me to apply for a week-long science literacy professional development at the Central Michigan University Biological Center located on Beaver Island, Michigan. The event was led by the Center for Excellence in STEM Education and the Chippewa River Writing Project. Several schools from the middle of the state were represented by a team of teachers looking to improve the relationship between science and literacy within their school districts. It was a week promising instruction on how to implement reading and writing strategies into the already complex subject of science.
Fast forward several months to August, and my colleague and I were watching the waves crash on the side of the Beaver Island Ferry while we crossed Lake Michigan along with colleagues from other schools. Schools included: Fulton, Central Montcalm, St. Louis, Carlton, Saginaw Township, and Bridgeport. Though all of us had a basic idea of what we were about to do for the week, we weren’t prepared to begin what would be one of the best professional development experiences of our teaching careers.Continue reading “The Beaver Island Institute 2016”
After having a year of flipped instruction under my belt and absorbing all of the student feedback that I received (see my 2nd blog post in the series from last summer, “Flipping English Classrooms: Grammar Instruction”), I have taken time to reflect and consider what options and changes I could explore with this teaching strategy.
Flipping has not come easily for me. I had to make sure it was going to fit my teaching situation. As a language arts teacher, I had to figure out just how I was going to flip the instruction within my classroom. The English world is a bit more complicated in terms of flipped instruction. It took a lot of research and learning on my part to venture down this path, but I like challenges, and I was welcoming it with open arms, especially if I was going to get my students more engaged.
As my first blog post demonstrates, I decided to start with flipping my grammar instruction. I have always felt that grammar is not the most exciting to students. I have always taught grammar within the writing assignments I present to students. Often times, I look over student writing, from journal entries to formal assignments that they have turned in to me. As I pore over their papers, I look for the weaknesses in their grammar and use what I find to direct my instruction. In addition, I use the Common Core State Standards to help guide my instruction, for example:
Choose among simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences to signal differing relationships among ideas.
Explain the function of phrases and clauses in general and their function in specific sentences.
Grammar was a solid choice for me to start learning what flipped instruction could potentially look like for my students and me. I started very simply and have played around with multiple screencasting tools, like the ones mentioned in my first blog post. Also, I have used other videos that I found on YouTube to not only help with my own time management, but also to help me see what to do and what not to do when creating a video. You can see the videos I have selected from YouTube by visiting my wiki page or through the link below.
For now, students are following the traditional flipped model where they watch a video and come back to class ready to do a pre-planned activity. While students watch the video, I have them fill out a WSQ form (pronounced wisk) — which I adapted from Crystal Kirch — where WSQ stands for Watch, Summarize, and Question.
Typically assigned on Monday, I give the students four days to watch the video and complete their WSQ. Thursdays are our activity days when students show what they have learned in the flipped lesson usually by getting up and moving around the room in purposeful activity. For example, the week students studied the different types of sentences, they made sentence strips with partners to post around the room displaying what they had learned from my flipped lesson video.
The school district where I teach has four 9-week marking periods. I plan my flipped grammar instruction for eight of the nine weeks. I post the videos along with a chart for my students to follow on my classroom Wikispace. Students can work at their own pace. I tell my students that they can work ahead as far as they would like, but they can never be behind when it comes to their flipped lessons. This strategy allows those students who work faster or need more of a challenge to have the freedom to take a vested interest in their own learning.
Now that the first year of implementing the flipped concept in my classroom has come to a close, I still have not decided my own definition of what flipping should look like in my classroom. What I do know is that I want to do what is best for my students. Below, I share feedback that my students provided expressing what they felt are the pros and cons of flipping grammar instruction for the first year.
Sometimes videos are entertaining.
Videos can be watched multiple times to understand the lesson.
Videos are archived so they can be accessed later in the year.
Videos can be watched across multiple platforms.
Videos can be stopped and rewound; teachers cannot.
Videos beyond 5-7 minutes are too long.
Sometimes it is hard to access the video if there is not internet at home.
Videos can be hard to hear sometimes.
We can’t ask teachers until the assignment in class.
I will continue to explore flipping models from other English teachers to help me establish my own definition of a flipped English classroom. As I push forward with this new instructional strategy and share my experiences, I will take a deeper look into a specific flipped lesson I have implemented in my classroom and discuss the pros and cons I have found with flipping grammar instruction this school year.
Last year my principal presented a very unique opportunity for me to flip instruction in my classroom. His motivation was to try and reach more students on all levels. As our conversation progressed, we specifically discussed students who struggle getting homework turned in as well as students who need to be challenged.
Furthermore, we talked about how flipped lessons provide students an opportunity to go back and watch a lesson over as many times as needed if the student was not understanding it the first time. Often times this happens after a teacher is going through a lesson while in front of the classroom. Unfortunately, there is no rewind button for teachers. However, if a student is watching a flipped lesson, they can rewind as often as needed and work at their own pace.
This post will be the first of four posts concerning flipped classrooms, so we should begin by describing exactly what “flipping” is.
What is Flipping?
Flipping is an innovative way to deliver instruction to students. A flipped classroom is where traditional teaching methods are switched; instruction is delivered through online videos and other resources such as websites. In addition, the “homework” portion is then done in the classroom with the help of the teacher. Homework might include an online assignment, worksheet, project, etc. Students watch lectures outside of the classroom, working at their own pace and application of the learned processes take place in the classroom with the help of the teacher. With the flipped model, students have more access to teachers to answer questions that they might not otherwise be able to have answered when they are working on homework at home. More often these questions can be asked and answered while the student is in class working on the activity associated with the lesson.
Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student, in Every Class Every Day by Johnathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, discusses the benefits to flipping classroom instruction and provides helpful hints on what to do and how to get started. For example, readers learn the true definition of flipping. Also, the text discusses why a teacher should consider flipping their instruction. This was the first book I read when it came to flipping my classroom. Though flipping is not meant to be the end all, be all instructional strategy, it is helping to reach more students.
Though other subject areas are exploring the use of flipped lessons, it seems to be more prevalent among math teachers today than any other subject. With math instruction, students often will sit and listen to the lecture/lesson. Then, they complete minimal homework in class, never really completing the more difficult problems while the teacher is at their disposal to ask questions. With flipped instruction for math, the student can watch the lesson at home and then come into the classroom where they can complete the entire assignment while having access to the teacher when they encounter problems they may not easily understand. Although math may be where most flipped instruction occurs, I have always felt that grammar is a difficult topic to get across to students and for the them to retain. I will further elaborate on my experience with flipping grammar in future blog posts.
Tools for Flipping
No matter what subject you teach, teachers need the right tools to participate in flipped instruction. There are a wide variety of screencasting tools that exist for teachers to use. The tools that are available range from being expensive to being free. Techsmith, a software company out of Okemos, Michigan has three different tools: Jing, Snagit, and Camtasia. Jing is free and limits recording time to no more than 5 minutes. In addition, it limits the amount of storage space you are allowed. Snagit is the next step up from Jing and allows users unlimited recording time and gives the option to upload the video to a Youtube account, which is a great option because there is unlimited storage. Snagit costs around $40.00. Also, users can edit the video that has been created.
Finally, Camtasia is the most advanced out of the three tools offered by Techsmith. Camtasia allows you to embed music, edit, and place items like arrows and conversation bubbles right into the video. Camtasia can be quite expensive and runs about $250.00, It is a platform that should be used by more experienced screencasting users and individuals that have experience editing videos.
Personally, I prefer a digital tool called Touchcast. Touchcast gives you various options on how to broadcast your video and allows you to show different screens within the video allowing it to be more interactive and more engaging for the students. The best part about Touchcast is that it is free. Below is an example of a flipped lesson using Touchcast.
Flipped classrooms are popping up everywhere. More and more teachers are either flipping their entire instruction or just parts of it. Due to the fact it is such a new instructional strategy to reach students, there hasn’t been enough research done on the topic to prove its effectiveness as discussed in an Educational Leadership article by Bryan Goodwin and Kirsten Miller. However, schools such as the Clintondale High School (also mentioned in the article) have seen significant changes to student performance since they have flipped their entire school. In addition, you can read a Michigan Radio Story about the Clintondale School District.
Even though flipped learning hasn’t completely proven itself yet, there are many positives emerging from this new practice. I know from my own experiences, I have seen improvement in student’s understanding of grammar and I find it very beneficial to direct students to flipped lessons when they don’t remember a skill instead of me having to take time out of class to explain something again. My students are doing a much better job of applying what they have learned to pieces of writing they complete in my classroom. I feel that grammar is being retained more too because they can always go back and re-watch a video if they don’t remember a certain grammar rule that has been taught.
There is a lot of support available for teachers who are considering flipped instruction including the Flipped Learning Network and there are many supportive teachers available on Twitter.
In the next three posts, I will further explore:
Specifics on how I flip lessons in my classroom
Reflecting on what worked and what hasn’t worked in my classroom with flipping
What the future holds for flipped lessons in my class.