A Running Diary

Earlier today I decided that I am going to work on flipping another world history unit. I teach two levels of freshman world history – regular and lower level. The unit I am going to flip today is for my lower level history class. This class is specifically for students with learning challenges. Every student in that class has some sort of academic accommodations which include things like: teacher provided notes,  extended time on tests, preferential seating, and having tests read in a 1-on-1 setting.

In this unit students will be able to work at their own pace and choose the order that they would like to complete the assignments. I will create a checklist that each student will have so they can monitor their own progress. I will also require students to complete a daily goal sheet at the beginning of class and daily accomplishment sheet at the end of each class as an entrance slip and exit slip, respectively. To keep track of these I will use a website called goformative.com. This site allows teachers to create different types of formative assessments and save them. I have not used it before, but it seems like this site will work for me because everything will be digital, which means less papers for me to keep track of and store.

As I was getting ready to start I had an idea. I’d document this process in my blog by borrowing the format from sports writer Bill Simmons and keep a running diary. Here goes:

1:43 pm: My first step is to figure out which unit I want to flip. It’s going to be one early in the year, but not the very first one because I feel it will be important for freshmen to settle in to the new school year before whacking them with a 2×4 that will be this unit.

1:47: I’ve decided to flip chapter 2 – Exploration of Africa and Asia. I chose this unit because there are quite a few opportunities for meaningful work that can be done in class. Now that I’ve decided on the unit, the next step for me is to break down each section and determine the important concepts of the section and how I want my students to learn about them.

On a separate note, my 2 year old daughter is throwing a MAJOR tantrum because she wants some tortilla chips and doesn’t want to take a nap. Or at least that’s how it started. I’m not quite sure what she wants now because it’s hard to understand her babble between her shouts, sniffles, and whines. For the record, the tantrum started at 1:23.

2:19: She’s finally asleep. I think my wife’s blood pressure jumped 150 points and I’m kind of worried my wife may just mainline some sauvignon blanc to restore her sanity. Two year olds can be soooooo much fun.

2:58: I just finished the assignments for section 1. The project for this section is researching a spice native to the Molucca island region of Indonesia and creating a presentation. Students can earn extra credit for this assignment if they also use their chosen spice in a dish to share with the class.

3:17: Created a grading sheet for a skit students will create and perform on Chinese and/or Japanese exploration and isolation. I decided on this assignment for several reasons. First, groups have a choice of several topics, so this encourages student ownership and autonomy. Secondly, it’s an activity that supports students who are kinesthetic and creative.

3:23: I assembled a study packet of worksheets for section 2. Since this is a lower level class and the students have many learning challenges, these worksheets focus on developing good academic skills. For instance, one worksheet addresses using context clues to obtain the meanings of words.

3:52: I’m now finished with the assignments for this unit. The last assignment I created was a map in which students will need to identify the various areas discussed in this chapter. The only thing I have left to do is create my videos for each of the four sections of the chapter. This will take me anywhere from 30-45 minutes per video because once I create the videos I then load them into Ed Puzzle to embed questions directly into the vids. This is how I keep my students accountable for getting the notes (i.e. direct instruction).

As you can see, I’ve put in over 2 hours worth of work so far to flip this unit and I expect to put in another 2+ hours or so in finishing everything up. For you rookie flippers out there, you do not have to flip an entire unit; in fact I’d suggest against that. Start small. Flip one lesson. Keep it simple.

I’ve included a link to the checklist that students will receive for the unit here: Africa & Asia flipped unit checklist. They will also receive specific instructions and grading sheets for each individual assignment. For instance, here’s the assignment sheet for the 2.1 spice research and presentation: 2.1 spice research & presentation project.

I hope this was helpful.

Until next time…

Mirror mirror on the wall…

Welcome to my first blog post. I hope you will find this interesting, thought-provoking, and helpful.

This past July I attended the Flipped Learning Network conference, FlipCon16, and was inspired and energized. As I continue to work on improving what I do in the classroom, it was invigorating to share and receive ideas about becoming a more effective teacher. I was able to reflect on my pedagogy and practices which has inspired me to continue flipping my classes.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Tyler DeWitt (@tyleradwitt) and two important messages I took away were that:

A) Teachers are translators – It is our job to take complex ideas and break them down for my students to understand. I’m not looking to make historians out of my students. I consistently tell them that my job is to teach them HOW to think, not what to think. That means I need to determine what information is important and present it in a way my students understand.

B) “The vernacular of teaching doesn’t ‘live’ anywhere,” (DeWitt). – Teaching doesn’t just come from textbooks. It comes from anywhere and everywhere. What can you do to bring authentic learning to your students? Learn from a colleague or explain how you used calculating percentages on your vacation. Teaching lives in each one of us and it’s up to us to figure out how to impact our students.

As the school year is quickly approaching, take some time to reflect on your craft. Continue doing what you do well and take small steps to improve your areas of weakness. Most importantly, have fun.

Until next time…