Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flipped for Fluency Webinar Update

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the webinar, scheduled for September 18th was sold out yesterday. Luckily, my friends at www.sophia.org were able to add 20 more seats. So, if you haven't registered yet, now is the time!  http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4078709530

I have received almost 70 responses to my survey for content for the webinar. By popular demand, I will be focusing on classroom structure and lesson planning. I will try to incorporate some assessment, but might have to just post a video to the blog to cover this topic. If you have any specific concerns, please feel free to email me, and I will do my best to address them. I have written to many people looking to implement the flip right away, and I am happy to answer any questions or concerns.

I am looking forward to "seeing" you in September!


****UPDATE - As of 8/30 the webinar is totally sold out and we can't add any more seats. Hopefully we can do another one in the near future!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The first week with Flip 201

There is nothing like the first week of school. It is a time when everything seems possible. All the students are capable of receiving A's and learning all that we can teach. The students all have a fresh start and have the ability to continue on a great path or change directions to get on the path to learning.

I love the beginning of the school year, and not just because I can talk to children other than my 2 year old twins. I love looking at my new students, getting to know each of them as individuals, and seeing how all of the plans I have made over the summer are received by the students.

Of course, as we teachers know, another interesting thing about the beginning of the school year is how something that was so easily explained last year is totally confusing the next. For example, this week, many of the students seem confused by the assignment sheet. (A sample is on important docs tab.) I explained it to the group, I explained it individually to many of the students, but the students are still confused. Even in looking back at notes from last year, I don't remember this being as big of an issue. So, I am faced with a few choices: 1)In addition to the current assignment sheet, give a cheat sheet in date order, 2)Change the current assignment sheet, 3)Keep the assignment sheet the same and keep giving them the "what's due tomorrow" list on the board.

The problem is, I really like my assignment sheet. I like the students to be able to make their own plan and keep up with the due dates on their own. I enjoy helping them make the plan to stay on track. I think that learning how to tackle the assignments and completing them in a way that works best for each student is an important part of the life lessons that the students get from the flipped classroom.

So, what to do? I think I am going to continue just giving the students the "What's due next class" reminder for the remainder of the review unit. When I begin the first "real" unit, (after Labor Day) I am going to give them the blank spreadsheet and go over with them how they can make a plan for the unit. Hopefully the more that the students work with the spreadsheet, the easier it will be to understand.

Otherwise, I think the students are settling in nicely. They began giving their "Who am I?" present review projects, and so far I have been pleased with the results. They are doing a good job about not reading (of course I did tell them they would get a 0 if they read!) I am going to be doing baseline speaking assessments with the students Wednesday and Thursday and am excited about being able to do a better job of tracking student progress throughout the year.

Back to school night is Monday, and although I would love to have some classroom pictures with the students, it is probably not going to happen. The first week just went by so fast. I think I am going to send home a newsletter to parents with something I put together toward the end of September. This way parents can see the flip (and their students) in action.

Now for week 2.....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tomorrow is the first day of 180 days of flipping!

I can't believe that the summer has flown by so fast. I have made it through 3 days of professional development and now anxiously await the arrival of my students tomorrow. It never fails, I am as nervous and excited as the students that come into my classroom. I have been fortunate enough to get my own room this year, so I have been working hard to get it set up in a way that I think will help the students enjoy their learning environment.

Here are some pictures from my new room! It is hard to get in one photo. I tried to set up some places for students to work alone, in small groups, and in larger groups. I also have a futon and interesting plastic chairs for reading and conversation. I am planning on mandating that the futon is for reading in my 3 classes since I am sure they will try to just "hang out" there.

After much consideration, I have decided to implement Moodle, but really only as a basic website. I am not utilizing any of its more advanced features this year. I am going to use www.collaborizeclassroom.com for student journaling. It is not too difficult to setup, and easy for students to respond to my prompts and to each other. After seeing that they have a quick, easy way to add accents I was sold on this as my program for the year. I don't want the students to have any excuses not to have those accents!

I am also excited about using www.threering.com to keep an online student portfolio. I can easily add non-digital student work, speaking assessments and videos to each student's portfolio. This is really important because in Colorado, as in many other states, we are beginning the implementation of new teacher evaluations and so much of it centers on being able to demonstrate student progress. Not to mention, I am really looking forward to be able to see and hear the progression of my students and be able to share it with students and parents.

Can't wait to get started. I am looking forward to being able to post some student reactions and comments along with my thoughts and ideas.

Happy Back to School!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Demonstrating Proficiency using PBL and the ACTFL scale

This year, my focus is going to be having the students demonstrate proficiency. I am moving away from the old written tests. I want my students to demonstrate their proficiency with new and old skills and concepts. I know, many of you may be saying "Duh", and although I have known this is the way to go, only recently have I found a way that I think will really be effective. I working to utilize Project Based Learning. If you are unfamiliar with this, check out this recorded webinar. It is a fantastic explanation of PBL.

In order to demonstrate not only proficiency, but movement on the ACTFL scale, I am also beginning the year with a baseline speaking assessment. I am going to do a baseline written assessment at the end of the review/beginning of Unit 1. I am hoping that these assessments will not only help determine students progress as we move through the year, but help me to identify common gaps in learning so that I can address them quickly.

My assessment plan for the beginning of the year
Students will be given videos to review previously learned grammar points. They will then do quick written practice and then demonstrate their proficiency with basic grammar and vocabulary through projects of their choice. I am giving them a question to answer, and they can demonstrate their proficiency in any way they choose. The first one is shown below. I asking for a 1-2 minute presentation from my regular Spanish 3 class, 2-3 in PreAp and 3-4 in level 4. My thought is to begin these PBL projects small so the students don't get overwhelmed. The project for Unit 1 is more involved and complex. I am also giving students three of these projects in the first 2 weeks - Present, Past, and Future.

As students are working on these assignments, I will be administering individual benchmark speaking assessments. I will be using a rubric that I was discussed in the Creative Language Class blog. They did a great series on assessing on the ACTFL scale and if you haven't read it, you should check it out. The challenge in this benchmark assessment is to find a way to do determine student abilities without demoralizing them. I am using a prompt that I found on the Creative Language Class blog which is as follows:

Your class has been working with students in Barcelona, Spain and you have shared lots of information about your daily lives with them. It’s time to find out more about what students’ lives are like in Spain so you have to interview a student there to find out what his/her daily life is like. Since your partner may not remember what you said about your daily life, be prepared to answer any questions he/she might have about your daily life. You may want to find out:

What your partner does daily at home, school, and/or work;
What your partner does most every week at home, school, and/or work;
Anything else you would like to learn about daily life in Spain.

Remember to greet your partner and thank your partner for his/her time. And don’t forget, your partner will probably ask you questions about your life as well.

After much consideration and searching the net, I decided this was a good benchmark for level 3 because the students should have enough knowledge to answer the questions coming into the class, and there is room for the students to show growth as we progress through the review and Unit 1. For me, I need to give the same assessment to be able to determine growth accurately. I will be assessing the students with this prompt after Unit 1, Challenges in Teen Life. With the new vocabulary students learn in that unit, as well as the continuous language use in class, I am expecting to see a big increase in abilities. My best guess is that students will score Novice Low - Novice Mid on the benchmark assessment. I hope they will be at Novice High when I reassess in October.

My goal for the students in level 3 is to be able to be consistently at Intermediate Low, and level 4 to be at Intermediate High in all activities by the end of the year. I am hopeful that with the tools from ACTFL* I will be able to accurately assess not only where students are, but be able to show them the areas where they need to improve.

I realize that approaching assessment in this way will be a big change for the students, but I am hoping that they will quickly embrace it. I think it is so much better for students to demonstrate their knowledge using these tools and projects then be stuck staring at huge tests. Since school starts on August 20th, I don't have long to wait to see how these new changes are received.

*I am adding the Performance Assessment Rubric from the Creative Language Class blog to the Helpful Class Documents tab.

**Many of my students have not done conversation and listening in a meaningful way in level 2, which is why I believe that they are going to begin low on the ACTFL scale. (I hope they prove me wrong!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

With change comes objections

Flipping your classroom is a daunting task. It is not easy, takes a big time investment from the teacher up front, and requires patience when it is being implemented for the first time. You may encounter resistance from students, parents, administrators and your peer teachers.  You will experience technical difficulties - both your own and your students. Kids will not magically start doing their homework, nor will they all become fluent language speakers.

So, with all the issues, why would anyone bother flipping their class? The answer for me is easy...because the traditional way of teaching was not working for me or my students. I was spending so much time lecturing and "leading" class, that many students could get good grades without truly learning the material. I had other groups of students that could keep their head down and be quiet, make their "C" and also not really learn much. Then of course there was the third group (albeit small) that just ignored me as much as possible and barely made it through class. This was not acceptable to me and I knew I had to find another way. (see earlier posts for my AP story and thematic units.)

Here is my attempt to answer the common objections:
  1. Students won't do the homework. Honestly, this is completely true. Students that continually refuse to do homework in a traditional classroom probably aren't going to do homework in a flipped class. For me, a big difference is that they don't have to do homework. They can plan to watch the videos in class. In fact, I encourage some of my "homework slackers" to do it that way.
  2. I will lose my relationship with my students. From my experience last year, and talking to other teachers that have flipped, the complete opposite is true. Since I am not being a "sage on the stage", I am able to work with students individually and actually have better relationships with them now than I did before the flip. When a student was having a problem with content, or a personal problem, I was able to detect it quickly and help the students work through the issues.
  3. Parents and students will object. Whenever we try new things in the classroom, the one thing we can be sure of is that some parents and students will object. The key is to try to predict the objections and be ready for them. Start the year by explaining the changes you are making and why you are making them. Everyone fears change. Many parents fear change for the sake of change, especially in education. (As a parent myself, I can attest to this!) Make sure you can justify changes that you are making in the classroom BEFORE you make them. Last year, I had only one student at fall conferences who tried to convince her mother that I wasn't teaching and that is why her grade wasn't where it should be. I had many parents tell me how much they loved the lectures via video because it really helped their student.
  4. Peer teachers aren't supportive. I am so fortunate that in my small school with three other foreign language teachers, I always receive support from my fellow teachers. Although I am the only one flipping, I have never heard any of them be negative about this decision. I know that many other teachers are not so lucky. I believe that it goes back to the fear of change. If our peers have been teaching the same way for years and are comfortable, it is difficult to contemplate changing their methods. I think some teachers fear that if the flipped class works for some teachers that they will be forced to make the change in their classroom if they want to or not.
  5. Putting lectures on videos won't improve learning. Actually, this is something I totally agree with. However, what many people misunderstand about the flipped classroom is that the videos are a small part of the process. What improves learning is what happens in the classroom once the teacher becomes a facilitator and the students take the lead in the learning process. I have been blown away by not only what my students could achieve at the end of last year, but their motivation was even more exciting. So many times, even my good students think of Spanish is something they have to "get through". Last year was the first time I had many students really start to love the language and be excited about class. That to me is the indicator of true success.
My advice to you if you are considering some type of flipped classroom is to be ready for objections, make sure you are making changes for the right reasons, and then to stay the course. Listen to criticism and learn from it. Get support and advice wherever you can find it...if not at your school, then elsewhere in your district or your state. Work on an online PLN and follow other's blogs, Twitter chats and websites. Continue learning, adapting and striving to be the best teacher you can be....that is true success.

Thanks Karla for inspiring this post! Keep commenting!