Tag Archive | High school

Can I PLEASE do my homework?

Recently, Ms. Proch and I took two huge steps: we flipped our Pre-AP ELA 9 classes and we also implemented Outcomes-Based Grading (Standards-Based Grading for my American readers). Needless to say, we’re really excited, but I’m also a little bit hesitant/nervous/anxious/terrified. I’ve done both before, but not in an English class. Math made some much more sense to me when it came to exactly what my class time versus homework was going to look like, but English is a whole new kettle of fish.

Today is the first day where I noticed a huge difference in what my class is like. I assigned some prep-work (the work my class will do the night before a class) last night for my students to do. (You can check out my class website for the resources mentioned.) Their job was to watch a short video on Shakespearean Insults and to do a little reading about how to paraphrase when reading Shakespeare. Today in class, we took our knowledge about how to read Shakespeare and applied it to how to write like Shakespeare. They were tasked to act as a “secret admirer” to another student in my class and write them a kind letter. In theme with Valentine’s Day this week, this letter could be romantic (not required) or platonic, whichever the students were comfortable writing, so that I can pass them out anonymously on Friday for a little Valentine’s pick-me-up (some of them were super sweet–I almost cried reading how kind-hearted my students are).

Here’s where my students were struggling with the flipped concept: they were working, but not very hard. I reminded them that the assignment was to be completed by the end of class. They had more than sufficient time to complete this work if they were working diligently, but many of them were not. As the deadline drew nearer–fifteen minutes left, ten minutes left, five minutes left–the students began to panic more. Several students put up their hand at the five minute marker, and asked if they could take this home for homework.

Normally, I would be OVER THE MOON if a student willingly volunteered to take work home so they could complete it and “do a better job,” but I’m in the process of retraining their thinking on how class works. I said no, and they were dismayed. I took time to have a “teachable moment” and explain that they need to be maximizing their class time or we aren’t going to accomplish anything all semester. I’m lucky to have a spectacularly motivated crew, so they were on board with actually being productive. I am also fortunate that I get to keep my class all afternoon, so we dipped into some of fifth period to get the letters done to their satisfaction.

All in all, this was a great learning experience for me: I need to be grateful for my very eager students, I need to be more diligent with managing class time, and I need to reinforce the difference between prep work and class work (and the absence of homework).

My question to you, as readers, is what strategies do you use to help your students to transition their learning habits from a traditional classroom to a flipped classroom? 

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Motivated?

I’ve been teaching now for nearly six weeks. It feels like a lot longer, but I know that I still have a long way to go on the never-ending journey of becoming the best teacher I can be. Love the clichés? Sleep deprivation + reflection = awesomely overused clichés.

I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks and the common thread in all my frustrations is motivation. I have students who are very motivated by marks, a few students who are motivated to do a good job because they want to, several students who are quite bright but “just aren’t applying themselves,” and even more students who just don’t seem to care.

In an attempt to change all that, I did what I am calling a flip-flopped classroom in my Workplace and Apprenticeship 20 course. I know that many of my students don’t care to do homework (hey – I didn’t either), so I abolished it. I still wanted to have a chance to be doing a flipped classroom-style learning experience, so I recorded my videos in less-than-five minute segments. I simply broke it up into manageable sections. I gave them enough information to get the jist of the topic and a few easy questions. I posted all the answers in the back of the classroom on my AWESOME “Problems? We’ve Got Answers!” bulletin board (I know what you’re thinking… I am so pithy or very lame! I’m still undecided on that one.). They check their work after each assignment, then watch the next video for the next lesson. It has a “short sheet,” which is basically a couple of questions they need to answer during the video to make sure that they understand what is going on, and, more importantly, to make sure they actually watched it. I usually broadcast one of my videos on the smartboard each day, depending on where the majority of the class is.

Here’s the beauty of this plan now. I have the entire class to be circulating. It gives me way more time to be helping students out, and it gives me way more control over classroom management. My back is never to the class, I am always milling about. I can catch problems before they arise. More importantly, the little goof-ball that brought in a laser pointer no longer has anything to point his laser at. Since I’ve implemented this, I’ve been so much happier with how smoothly my class has gone.

I also am loving the no-exam model I’ve created to accompany it. I have them do skill checks, as I’m using standards-based grading with this class. They get a skill checked twice on predetermined dates. These are basically like an exam, but chopped up into manageable, small portions

It’s not perfect. Not by a long short. I still have unmotivated kids. I still have kids off task. I still have hours from [insert insane place you’d like to avoid] where I’m run off my feet and feel like there is no hope for the upcoming generation. But, I have to say, it is better. I can catch more shenanigans before they become problems. I have students who are working hard and are ahead of the class (which means I have to keep ahead of them – not an easy feat some days!). I have most of my students working at the pace I set. I do have a few students who are behind, but since there is no exam looming, I don’t mind giving them a few days to get their act together. At the end of the day, I want them to learn, even if it s a few days later than I had originally hoped.

My favourite part of this is that I can have a unit assessment project. It’s not worth very much (SHH! Don’t tell the students!). It’s worth 10 marks out of 60 for the unit (5 marks per skill, with ten skills in total). It ties everything together and it is open-ended enough to let the students explore something that they care about and could see in their future.

I’ll end this post on one last happy note. On Friday, I asked the students what they thought of the change. Unanimously, they agreed. They all had good advice, like that I needed to get their marks up sooner for better feedback. I knew that one, but I’ll be a little bit more diligent from now on. What hit me was one student who has been a particular pain in the you-know-where (I bet you’re thinking of an ankle bone right?), said that I taught the lessons on my videos really well. The class then started clapping for me. I didn’t cry right then, but I’m certainly shedding a tear now. I can honestly say that even two weeks ago, I would have told you that I would likely never be shedding a happy tear due to this class. Gosh! I’m so glad I was wrong.

Kids have a remarkable ability to be wonderful. Just when you think all hope is lost, they do something that reminds me why I teach. I’ll have to remember this when I’m in the depths of despair next time.

1940 To Today: What’s Changed?

I was having lunch with my Mom today, and I was telling her rather enthusiastically about my Polynomials Flipped Unit project that I finally can call “Done… for Now.” I was explaining to her about the assessment portion the project, then I got into a rant about how we standardize schooling from the common exams right down to being on the same page of questions each day within the school. Out of nowhere, she got up and disappeared. She came back with a book in her hand. It was pretty old looking and it smelled like mildew, so I knew it must be good.

To provide a little context here, my Mom was an English teacher until my brother was born, which is when she became a stay-at-home Mom. Once I hit high school, she opted for a change in career paths and now works in a fitness club as the training manager, which she loves because she gets to still keep educating and teach others. Now back to my story…

She cracked it open, and while she was flipping through the book, she explained that this was the textbook she used to teach poetry to her grade ten class back when she was teaching 25 years ago. Eventually she found the poem, and she read it to me.

The Examiner
by F.R. Scott, A poem written in the 1940’s in Canada concerning
the American schooling system

The routine trickery of the examination
Baffles these hot and discouraged youths.

Driven by they know not what external pressure,
They pour their hated self-analysis, through the nib of confession, onto the accusatory page.

 
I, who have plotted their immediate downfall,
I am entrusted with the divine categories: A, B, C, D, and the hell of F
The parade of prize and the back door of pass.
 
In the tight silence
Standing by green grass window
Watching the fertile earth graduate its sons
With more compassion — not commanding the shape
Of stem and stamen, bringing the trees to pass
By shift of sunlight and increase of rain,
For each seed, the whole soil, for the inner life
The environment receptive and contributory — 
I shudder at the narrow frames of our textbook schools
In which we plant our so various seedlings.
 
Each brick-walled barracks
Cut into numbered rooms, black boarded,
Ties the venturing chute to the master’s stick;
The screw-desk rows of lads and girls
Subdued in the shade of an adult —
Their acid sub-soil —
Shape the new to the old in the ashen garden.
 
Shall we open the whole skylight of thought
To these tip-toe minds, bring them our frontier worlds
And the boundless uplands of art for their field of growth?
Or shall we pass them the chosen poems with the footnotes,
Ring the bell on their thoughts, period their play,
Make laws for averages and plans for means,
Print one history book for a whole province, and
Let ninety thousand read page 10 by Tuesday?
 
As I gather the inadequate paper evidence, I hear
Across the neat campus lawn
The professional mower’s drone clipping the inch-high green.
 

This poem was taken from Impact (p. 29). Edited by William Eckersley and published by J.M. Dent & Sons (Canada) Ltd.

I think it is interesting that Scott was having the same feelings about exams and the standardization of schools seventy years ago when he wrote this poem. Makes you think.