Sunday, September 15, 2013

Exhausted, stressed, and long nights equal the BEST WEEK EVER!

Like many teachers, I have been hard at work preparing pirate inspired lessons for my students, working with the Common Core, and reworking and revamping old lessons. Not to mention, connecting with my students, working hard with my new on-sight tech positions, being apart of the CTA Leadership Cohort by launching Tech Thursdays in my district, and mentoring a first year teacher. 

That, my friends, takes a LOT of energy! 

But I tell you has been the best week I've had in a long time! And it is all because of the results and positive feedback from my students. 

This is the first year since my very first year teaching that I don't have my lessons planned months in advanced. As I sit here typing and reflecting, I barely have tomorrow planned! For the past six weeks, I have been working, teaching, and planning this way. 

By. The. Seat. Of. My. Pants.

It has been scary, and difficult, but producing better results, more motivated students, and an even more motivated teacher: Me. 

So why has it taken me this long "fly by the seat of my pants"? I am not sure. I have always had engaging lessons, changed lessons depending on the needs of my students, reflected on my own teaching, and even have asked the opinion of my students about my teaching. So what has changed this year that has made planning in advance so difficult?

So many things that I am not even sure where to start! But I know it starts with those of you out there! So many brilliant educators I have "met" on Twitter. Twitter has become a living being where I can share successes, failures, ask questions, get feedback, and more. I am inspired daily by each of you and find myself calling many of you friends. You have pushed me to be better. To be a better leader, educator, and mentor to other educators, but more importantly for my students. 

This past week proves that what I am doing, is working. This past week's lessons had been re-written twice. I even through out a lesson to discuss the importance of 9/11 as I discovered (through another memorable day) that many knew little beyond the fact the America was attacked. It has been epic. 

Students have been LOVING the flipped lessons. I only have a handful of students with limited access and they are the ones who make sure to come in to listen and watch ahead of time. They love how silly I am, the Google Docs, and the activities we do in place of a typical lesson. This is not to say I have thrown out all my lessons, no. But I can certainly take the time out of class we would spend lecturing, taking notes, or reviewing a concept I am ninety percent sure my students know and can master. AND if I am wrong, their answers on the Google Doc (my way of checking for understanding) will show me and I can revisit in class the next day. No. Time. Wasted. Plus, students have the opportunity to apply concepts in ways I never imagined.

Just this week, students watched a video on quotations. Because students did so well on the Google Doc, I got to spent some time with each student in class as they worked on being creative with quotations. Students created their own SomeEcards about quotations. Students struggled, they discussed, only to come up with some pretty funny and cleaver statements about quotations. It was memorable. It was a lesson about something boring that they will remember and use correctly when they write. 

It's moments like this that I treasure.

These were the class favorites:

Another lesson that was intense was attempting to apply a Common Core State Standard on comparing and contrasting a fictional portrayal of a place and a historical account of the same to understand how the author uses history (Reading Standard for Literature 7th, 7). We read the short story "Zebra" by Chaim Potock. Students really connected to Zebra and what it would be like to loose the one thing you love to do more than anything. Zebra learns to cope when he meets John Wilson, a Vietnam veteran. There is a moment in the story where Zebra learns more about John Wilson and John's visit to the Vietnam Memorial Wall. 

To connect this story even further, I found the article "Reflections in the Wall" by Al Kimball. Al accounts his many attempts to visit the Vietnam Memorial and the emotions he feels when he finally faces those fears. Al mentions the painting, Reflections, which I also showed students. We read the article first. Students were so moved. They truly saw the connections immediately between the two pieces, but brought to life the emotions one feels through such a traumatic experiences life can bring. The discussions held were incredible. Truly deep thought. Bloom would be so proud!

We then used a Venn Diagram, students posted by sharing, writing, and using Extreme Collaboration. Then they wrote it out in written form. At the end of it all, students told me how much they enjoyed the reading, the writing, all of it. I was floored!

Not only are my students learning, but they are loving it! I have kids saying as they come to class "I am ready for the experience"! 

And I haven't mentioned our first real day of Genius Hour! But that could be an entire different blog post all together. Let's just say, they LOVE IT! I had many many many different ideas, thought, and project ideas that students keep asking when our next Genius Hour day is. That is happiness at its fullest!

This upcoming week should offer no less. I have students creating monsters, taking the point of view of snakes, and a peanut butter and jelly mess to contend with!

I am truly getting close to becoming a

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Joys of the Flipped Class

I have been learning about the Flipped Classroom all summer. Learning from the best flippers like The Lady Geeks, the impeccable Cheryl Morris, and one of my favorite breakdowns of the Flipped Classroom from The Bus Ed Crew.

You may or may not have heard of flipping lessons or the classroom. Maybe you have picked up on the phenomenon. But flipping your classroom is not about letting your class run wild. It is about empowering your students and gaining more time to discuss, interact, and create deep and real connections with students and your students to the curriculum.

But what I have found, more importantly, is the the flipped classroom opens up face to face time with your students AND time for students to be creative, interact, and work with the concept in a real world fashion.


I have been flipping lessons here and there with amazing success! In my classroom, I have been using videos for students to watch and learn the groundwork for a particular concept. After their video, they complete a Google Form that ensures their grasp of the concept. I get those answers, check in the evening and in the morning. When I start class, I do a quick check for understanding, then the real fun begins! Engaging students in real world application of the concept! Which, of course, we all know brings deeper learning and understanding.

I use Sophia to house all my flipped lessons. I have currently have lessons on grammar and on literature terms. The last one we did was on punctuation marks, specifically end marks. You can check it out below:

At home, students listened to a song (sang along in class), checked out the lesson, filled out the Google form, all so I could have face to face time and real world use of the concept of end marks. Once I double checked understanding, students had the rest of the period (almost forty minutes!) to create a rap, song, puppet show, or some other media in which they teach end marks and give examples. They had a BLAST! Plus, they worked extremely hard on the project, as they knew, these were going on our webpage! They had a real audience! Amazing! 

The Flipped Classroom is an ever evolving journey in which I am VERY new. However, it is exciting to see my students learning in even more meaningful ways. It isn't easy, and it is time consuming, but so worth it.

Here are some of the classroom favorites!