Monday, September 2, 2013

Flipping out with 31 Spanish II students

Although I have been flipping my classes for a while, this is the first time I have flipped a Spanish II class. Admittedly, I was nervous because there is a big difference between giving Juniors and Seniors freedom in class and giving Sophomores freedom. The first two weeks of class have certainly been challenging. My plan has been to spend three weeks doing review and assessing to establish where all of the students are on the proficiency scale. We are doing lots of reading of a simple novel to not only help me assess the students, but give them the opportunity to see more grammar and vocabulary in context since I knew that many of them did little or no reading in Spanish I. The reading also has the added benefit of being a "tech free" activity, so any issues with technology in the first weeks would have minimal impact.

After the review unit, I want to have a conversation with the Spanish II students to see what their feelings are about the flip and what changes I can make so that the class has the best flow and highest, achievable expectations. Many of my Spanish II students had experienced the flipped classroom in their Algebra I class last year. Depending on which teacher they had, they seem to be either very receptive to the idea of flipping Spanish, or completely opposed to it. After addressing some concerns and explaining that the video watching was less "intense" than in the Math and Science classes at the school, the kids were more willing. However, I thought one thing I wouldn't have to worry about too much was the access to Moodle, which is where we house the videos and assignments. However, I couldn't have been more wrong. The tech team decided that since some students might not remember their passwords, they would reset everyone's passwords and make them start from scratch. I don't know how it worked for other teachers, but even taking class time to go over how to do it, repeating usernames and passwords numerous times, and asking at the end of every class if everyone had access did not keep me from problems. As I was checking work on Friday, I had two separate students telling me they couldn't do their work since they didn't have access to Moodle. I was not a happy teacher.

With some of the tech issues, I gave students more time on the assignments for the first week. As I began checking work on Friday, many were surprised that they would be receiving 0's for work not completed (even though it was on the syllabus and clearly explained). This caused lots of focused working in class, which I hope will continue from now on. In the end, very few 0's were actually given out. I think one of the biggest struggles for all of the students in a flipped class is the autonomy that they have in class. I had thought that by giving the students the basic overview and then monitoring them as they worked, the class flow should be apparent, but clearly I needed to give more direction.

One of the problems is that the class is large, so it is nearly impossible to be on top of every kid at all times. I was really surprised by how much more difficult it was to find the one-on-one time with all of the students, especially last week. I thought I had been doing a good job, but if I didn't know that two students weren't on Moodle and not getting that work done, I clearly need to step up my game.

Next week, now that I have a better idea of the levels of the students and which students clearly cannot work together well, I am going to structure some groups to better enable students to focus on work rather than other "distractions". I wish I knew them all a bit better before I jumped into this, but I think that with the large class and the "excitable" nature of my Sophomores, this will make for a better flowing class next week and in the future.

The bottom line is the flipped class is tougher with a larger class and with Sophomores, but I think with some tweaking and a few more limits the class will run well.