Thinking Teaching Creating

Thoughts, Tips, Ideas, and Projects from a Creative Teacher Mama

Plans for Blended Learning

I want to implement some blended learning in my classroom this year.  I thought about trying to flip the classroom for just one subject (math), but I’m nervous about the potential problems that will occur when a few kids don’t watch the videos for homework (whether it was because they were busy, they decided not to, or lack a reliable internet connection, the result is the same).  I also don’t know that I’ll have time to create a video for every lesson I teach, even in a single subject, so I’m hesitant to commit myself to a true flip.

What I do have in mind is more of an in class flip for differentiation, and I plan to test drive it in math.

Now, bear in mind that I teach a self-contained class of gifted kids, so very few students are working below grade level, while I might have 6 or more students who can ace all the unit tests on day one.  I have a 90 minute block for math, and I’m expected to have about half of that time as instruction, and the other half as a student workshop of sorts.

math unit mind map

The mind map linked above takes into account that my district (and honestly, good teaching practices) requires that students who earn below a C on assessments are given remediation and the opportunity to retest once, with the highest possible score on a retest of 80%.  It also essentially breaks the class into three groups; those ready to learn the grade level material at the usual pace, those who need the unit compacted, and those who need the next level.

I know you’re thinking, great, but where does the blended learning part come in?

Remember how I said I planned to use it to differentiate?  Well, my plan is to have the lessons for the second half of the unit in video format,  using Blendspace to create lessons that include a video, guided practice, some independent practice, and possible a video going over the answers to the independent practice (although I think the answer key video will be the beginning of the next day’s lesson, and won’t be available until after the independent practice should be complete…just to make it easier for them to stay honest about it).  I also plan to have the lessons for the advanced group, working on next year’s content on the same topic, set up on Blendspace, although they won’t be allowed to work on it until they have completed the unit project.

The unit projects will be real-world examples using the main skills that the unit teaches.  For example, our unit on area and perimeter has students determine the cost of redecorating a room based on their choices of wall covering and carpet.  They are tasks that would take just a few class periods to complete if they have an hour or so of work time.  The plan is to have them start these projects when they finish early as soon as they have the skills to do so, and give just a few days at the end of the unit before the test to complete the projects.  I plan to give tasks that are somewhat open-ended, but not so much that they’re ridiculously difficult to grade.

Here’s what I’m looking at for my typical daily schedule:

You see that my first order of business with each group is to check their most recent independent practice and answer questions on that lesson.  I figure that most questions will be addressed while explaining how to find the correct answers, but I’m also planning to have a place each group can post their questions each day, and I can answer any we don’t hit naturally.  I want all the questions to be visible to everyone in an effort to minimize repeats, but I’m on the fence about having chart paper and sticky notes in the room vs. having it on Google Classroom, Padlet, Today’s Meet, or any other digital tool.  In the classroom is accessible to everyone, especially if our classroom technology is being used for Blendspace lessons, but digital question boards will also be accessible at home if someone comes up with a question while completing an assignment for homework.  I obviously could do both, but would rather only have to check in one place.

And with this model, students are still getting 45-50  minutes of face-time with me, and yet they have 40-45 minutes to accomplish their work.  Because I’ll be working with groups the entire time, I won’t be able to answer questions without taking from someone’s group time.  We’re going to have to set up clear expectations about asking classmates for help, the difference between telling the answer and coaching someone to find the answer, and logistics about things like bathroom breaks.  I know that’s true anytime we use a workshop model, but it’s worth mentioning so I remember to include it in my beginning of year plans.

The hard part is going to be having so much ready up front.  I tend to procrastinate, and would rather stay up until 3am finishing something the night before it’s due than get it done a week early when I have some spare time.  The deadline motivates me, so I need to shift my thinking about when that deadline actually is.  To start each unit properly, I’ll need: a mid-unit quiz to use as a pretest, a unit test to act as a second pretest to separate those compacting the unit with those skipping the unit, at least the first few videos for the second half of the unit ready to use (for the compacting group), a unit project (to be completed by every group, but the advanced unit needs to complete it to move on to advanced content), and the first couple of smartboards ready for the on target group.  Ideally, the entire first unit will be ready to use on the day of the pretest, and I can create the second unit’s materials while students complete unit one.

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Evolution of Management in My Classroom

I just finished my tenth year of teaching in June, and I’ve been reflecting on how much things have changed since I entered my first classroom all those years ago.  One way I’ve changed a lot is in terms of classroom management.  Early on, I used to have the pocket chart with all those colored papers and one-size-fits-all consequences.  When a more logical consequence stared me in the face, I used it, but I dabbled in giving more logical consequences, and those are the ones I’ve found to be the most effective when one is necessary.

A few years ago, I was still using the same consequences across the board, but ditched my behavior chart for a notebook.  My consequences were in increments of 5 minutes of walking laps (walking a portion or all of recess was pretty much the standard consequence at that school at the time), and each time a student broke a rule that day, it added 5 more minutes of walking laps.  If they got to a certain point in a single day, they went to the principal.  There were one or two kids who carefully walked that line where they took things as far as they could without going to the principal, yet I felt ridiculous saying a student needed to go to the principal for the types of things for which they earned consequences.  It was disruptive, attention-seeking behavior, but nothing heinous or harmful to others.

After the experience with students very clearly working the system, I changed from keeping track of the issues of the day to whether an issue was something that occurred over and over again.  I used the same 5 minutes per offense, but if a student was disruptive to the point of earning a consequence, it was 5 minutes of walking laps the first time.  If it happened again a week later, 10 minutes of walking during recess.  At the start of each quarter, I wiped the slate clean for behavior, just as we do in the gradebook.  This worked a little better for some students, but others ended up walking nearly all of every recess every day, especially if it was near the end of a quarter.  I needed something different.

This past year I’ve used logical consequences paired with bibliotherapy.  I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year (with reviews as needed) laying the groundwork for why rules are in place and how breaking them affects others.  When a problem arises, I had a private chat with that student about what they were doing, and why it can’t continue.  If that type of problem continued anyway, they earned a logical consequence and I notified their parents of that.  If it persisted, we moved on to bibliotherapy to help the student see how things played out for a character in a similar situation, and connected it to themselves.  The repetition of that type of problem could occur at any point over the course of a marking period.

There are still some changes I want to make for the coming year.  I want to do a better job documenting when the “friendly reminder” conversations occur, and whether it seemed that the student just didn’t realize what they were doing, didn’t know it was a problem, or knew, but chose to do it anyway.  I think that will be helpful in determining how to proceed.  Last year I had a lot of talks with students where I attempted to determine their motivation behind the behavior.  Unfortunately that is sometimes a difficult thing to figure out, but knowing whether a student did something because they didn’t realize it was a problem, because they were in a bad mood and that made it harder to control themselves, or they just didn’t care that it broke a rule often determined my response, but I didn’t always keep a record of it.  I also want to add a student-goal setting piece to this, but I’m not sure at what point to do it.  My initial thought is that if the problem occurs again after the bibliotherapy, that’s the time to recognize that this particular behavior is a habit.  I am also trying to decide whether resetting everything at the beginning of a new marking period is the best way to go.  On one hand, everything else resets at that point, and if a student struggles with a particular habit, making a goal and a plan to change that habit is going to be the best way to work with that student.  On the other hand, it isn’t exactly fair if a student has the same behavior issue 2 days in a row, but they happen to be the last day of the marking period and the first day of the new one, so they have a chat with me about it 2 days in a row when other students with less fortunate timing would have had a logical consequence on day two.  I think that if I’m going to reset everything, doing so after winter break is probably the best time to do it.  When we return to school in January, we always review rules and procedures because of the long break.  While it does not signify the end of a marking period for my school, I keep data, and can use the information from the correct dates before and after winter break to determine their behavior grade.

Overall, I’m hopeful that most issues can be resolved through discussion of rules and why are there, and private chats with students to help them see if something needs to change and why.  I like having a plan of action for how to handle it if a student repeatedly breaks a rule, but I’d rather not need to use them.

How do you manage your classroom?  How has that changed over the years?

 

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