Sunday, July 7, 2013

Finding the Sweet Spot

In preparing for my presentation at AATSP in San Antonio on Wednesday, I have been exploring some new visuals as well as thinking about how best to start my presentation. I have found that presenting is just like teaching. No matter how many first days, first impressions I have made successfully, I am always nervous in those first moments. So, I am always looking for the right way to start so I can look at the audience and know I am making that connection.

I began by thinking about my classes and all of the things that have worked and all of my students that have been so successful not only in Spanish, but in other classes at high school and some now in college. Giving the students control of their learning empowers them to continue learning and exploring long after they leave my class. I am always excited by how many continue with their Spanish after leaving my class.

How do I convey the changes that the flip has made in my classroom and with my students to people watching a 75 minute presentation? I want to convey how my students struggle at first-unsure of the new structure and unable to manage their own time. How difficult it is for me sometimes to realize that the students look to me less and less and time goes on. I know that this is the goal...that it is good for them to be making the choices and learning on their own, but it is hard sometimes. I love watching my students grow and mature before my eyes, and I am so thankful that I found the flipped class, because it has not only made me a better teacher, but my students better learners.

I created this Venn diagram to show the "sweet spot" which we all hope to achieve with our students.


The "sweet spot" is of course where all three circles meet. There needs to be a balance of choice, practice and content knowledge for our students to be able to effectively. My class is not always in the middle..sometimes it is more practice and choice and less content knowledge. It can be hard to push the students to use harder grammatical structures and tougher vocabulary. But how are they going to truly learn if they are not practicing that content on an ongoing, continual basis. Other times, I feel as though my class is content knowledge and practice. Although they are using things in context and getting the repetition they need to be able to put the content in their long term memory, the students aren't having any fun, and I believe that when their hearts are not in it, no matter how meaningful the work is, they won't truly learn it.

It is a delicate balance, and one I am closer to now than ever before. There are some days when I can just "feel" that we are there, but unfortunately there are many more where I know we are not. Can every day be a "sweet spot" day in class? Is it possible to always merge the three? I am not sure, but I know it is something I need to strive for just as much as being in Spanish 90% during class.

Back to my original can I convey all of this to people new to flipping? Is it even possible? I know that when I began, all I could think of was how to make videos and what to do with the additional class time. Do teachers need to just begin with that and progress on to more challenging tasks as time goes on? Is it too overwhelming to try to convey all the more complex and rewarding parts of the flipped class?

I believe I will start at the beginning and then move on from there. If anyone wants to have their mind blown with all the possibilities on the journey to the "sweet spot", it may need to be done over margaritas on a patio somewhere! ;)