Saturday, March 31, 2012

Flipped Classroom Research

In rationalizing my procrastination of grading my projects from my last unit assessment, I have been doing quite a bit of research on the flipped classroom and what people are saying about it. I have added some great blogs that I am following that are full of information. I also was just reading this article which does a great job illustrating what really needs to go into the planning of a flipped classroom.

With the Khan Academy appearing on 60 minutes a few weeks ago, there seems to be increased buzz about the flipped classroom. I have gotten some great emails from some folks asking the hard questions like, "Now that I have the time in class, what do I do with it?". Taking lectures out of the classroom is only the smallest part of the flipped classroom model. Teachers really need to thoughtfully reflect on their assignments, assessments and class activities.

I know I have mentioned before that one of my rules of thumb for assessments is that the kids shouldn't be able to quickly Google all of the answers. When originally making the thematic plans for the year, I made sure that I chose a variety of types of assessments: some are presentational, some are interpersonal. They are equally divided between written and speaking. In benchmark assessments, I require students to use the vocabulary and grammatical concepts. I don't ask them to regurgitate a list or just conjugate in verb boxes. I always try to incorporate higher level thinking questions from the culture in the unit. For example, I might ask 1. What was the major reason for the Spanish Civil War? but I also ask 2. Why do you think that is important? or 3. How did that effect the rest of the world? or 4. Do you think the Spanish Civil War impacted our world today and why?

Fun is important, but it does need to be relevant. There is nothing students like more than skits. We just did some quick ones for the detective unit and they were great. They were the kids applying what they have learned, and isn't that what we want as teachers? We also played CLUE. The kids couldn't say anything except in Spanish, and although the kids were pretty quiet for a while, they couldn't stay that way for the entire game and soon the Spanish was flowing.

I am always looking for new ideas and activities, and I am always looking for ways to improve. For all my new readers, please add comments, send me an email. If there is one thing all the research has shown me is that teachers need to work together toward the common goal......creating thinkers, not just passing out diplomas.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Effective use of technology

Spring Break is so wonderful. Not that I am really on vacation; I have been working pretty much everyday. Yesterday, I planned my whole day around a webinar I found on The title of the webinar was "Powering the Digital Classroom, It takes more than computers." I was intrigued.

The webinar looked at a study where the success of students correlated directly to the student to computer ratio. The best part of the webinar was the nine key implementation factors. (Here is a link to the slides It was a free webinar, so I don't think I am stepping on anyone's toes.) Two of the nine really caught my eye: virtual field trips and online formative assessment.

Online formative assessment is something that I have been thinking about and really wanted to incorporate into the flipped classroom, but my time has limited me. I have done quite a bit of research, but had never taken the plunge. I am proud to say that today, I finally sat down and figured out how to use YouTube annotations so I have a little mini quiz in my latest video. (Check it out  If you are going to work on annotations, some words of advice. First, set aside some time so that you can really figure it out in one sitting. Second, I found it easier when I made my Power Points to have the wrong answer first, and keep the language on the right answer general. If you watch it you will see. I watched 2 or 3 different YouTube videos by josephbison one of which can be found at

Yesterday I finally figured out how to implement flubaroo, which is a Google script that can correct online quizzes for you. If you are a Google apps user, I recommend you check it out. It really didn't take very long, and there are plenty of videos to walk you through using it. I had never even really taken the time to sit down with Google docs and create a form, which was also remarkably easy. I created an exit survey for my students for the end of the year to get their impressions about the flip.

On to virtual field trips.....I have been thinking about incorporating Google Earth into the classroom since my class read a Spanish short reader that was set in Spain and I kept having to explain to them what El Escorial was or what the Plaza Mayor was. My plan is to go back through the books and make a sightseeing tour on Google Earth so that the students can watch it before they read and then have a better idea about what they are reading about. Although I have played a little with Google Earth, I have to dedicate a whole day to really figure out how to best make it work. I am planning to have it put together for the conference in Chicago.

I also never realized that there were companies that put together virtual field trips. Since money is a major issue, if one of these companies that puts these together is any good, I may really consider it. The pricing I have seen didn't look too bad, but I have to do a lot more investigation.

Luckily, since the last unit in Spanish III is technology, I can throw just about any of this at my students and it fits with the lesson plan. I am curious to their feedback on the online quizzes in the videos and some of the Google docs forms. Time will tell!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Presents! Woo hoo!!

So, for those of you out there saying that you need some technology in the classroom to make the flip work, I have an idea for you! Visit and submit a proposal. I submitted a proposal on March 8 on the advice from a person at our district office because a local bank was going to fund some projects that were submitted to the website in our area. It took me some time to get it all worded just so and submitted, but it was worth it! Here is the link to the project that I submitted:  I just found out today that my project was fully funded, and there are 2 Samsung Galaxy Android Tablets on their way to my classroom! I couldn't think of a better way to start Spring Break!

I actually received a big donation from an anonymous donor, so I am unsure if it came from the bank or not. I know not every project gets funded, but in these times, what do you have to lose?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The final stretch begins.....

As I sit at Spring Conferences, anxiously awaiting 7:00 and the official beginning of my Spring Break, I start to think about the plans for the last unit and how I am going to keep the students engaged and on task for the last 6 weeks of school.

This is always a challenge, because no matter how I prepare for it, the last weeks of school are always crazy. Between golf, soccer, track, ACT, senior events and assemblies, the deck seems to be stacked against keeping the kids focused on school the last 6 weeks.

To help combat the "Spring Fever", I have really tightened up my last unit. I have broken up due dates, and rather than having a few things due at once, I have assignments due or a quiz everyday. I have remembered to follow my own advice and factor in some fun as well.

We are going to review numbers and ordinals, AGAIN. I am also going to revisit direction words, such as: in front of, behind, underneath, etc. The reward will be that the kids get to do a scavenger hunt. This is an activity that I love, but frankly is almost impossible to pull off because I need to dedicate almost an entire class period to make it work. My secret plan (don't tell anyone) is to encourage the kids to work ahead. In the classes where I can make this happen, we can do the scavenger hunt. If there are classes where this doesn't happen (say for instance, my 4th block, wink) they will not get to do the scavenger hunt.

Hopefully this will help keep them on track and on task during April. We shall see....sometimes my sneaky plans flop.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Time for some fun!

One of the problems I have encountered with my classes this semester is that I have not factored in enough fun. We have had two tough units in a row (Spanish Civil War and Detective Novels) and although the kids have learned so much I feel like it is time to loosen up and have some fun.

So, there will not be a new reader for our final unit of the semester! Yay! I am going to go back to short stories and really focus on meaningful but fun activities and assessments for our final unit this year...TECHNOLOGY!

For this unit, I am going to ask the students to create projects that would help their peers and future students learn concepts that we have covered this year. If someone asks me, I may even let them do how to succeed in the flipped classroom! I am a big believer in giving some free reign on the methods of the delivery of this project, but it must incorporate technology. I spoke to one of my peer teachers and she said she recently assigned a technology project where she said Power Points were forbidden. She had the kids choose a way to present from . There are some cool ideas for projects there. The kids will also learn some technology vocabulary and I feel confident there will be lots of speaking! I am looking at not only discussion questions about technology, but revisiting the prompts from the Google Voice assignments this semester.

I am thinking about giving the final before the Unit Assessment for this unit so that I have time to grade an effective assessment. I am planning on having the kids do a writing prompt which incorporates their knowledge from the semester. We will also have a listening and speaking prompt. Then, we can watch the Unit Assessments during the end of the semester and the kids can focus on studying for their other classes. Our school mandates finals in just about every class, so the kids are really stressed those last two weeks!

I am preparing for my conference in Chicago this summer, and I am excited that I am going to work with a colleague to do a professional development day on the flipped classroom in my school district. I have also been approached by another school to deliver a half-day presentation on the flip! I am so excited to share my passion (and get to do some free traveling!)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Flipped Class Conference

I am so excited! I just found out that I will be a presenter at the Flipped Class Conference in Chicago this summer!!! If you are interested in learning more abouht the flip, the conference is this June 18th-20th. Space is filling up fast so check out the link .

I am also going to have a talk with the superintendant of my school to talk to him about holding a flipped classroom "class" for my district, so now I am so pumped to have that meeting!

I have some great stuff going on in my class and I will be posting this weekend! I love hearing from people following the blog, so keep the communication coming!