Let me know in the comments if this is helpful, incomplete, inspiring, offensive, or "other"
In advance of my guest-hosting gig for Monday's #engsschat on Twitter, this weekend I produced and posted some really short clips to illustrate multiple ways to produce video lessons. I remember that when I got started, the video-production step felt daunting and a bit terrifying.
Let me know in the comments if this is helpful, incomplete, inspiring, offensive, or "other"
Recently I realized that I'm probably the only teacher who does flipping quizzes like I do. Many colleagues use EdPuzzle or some similar online application to check students' understanding of the video lessons. I will address my feelings on that in a later blog post.
My current system has evolved over 5 years, but its DNA traces back to Bergmann & Sams' first book's chapter on accountability. You need to know what students know before they get to the high-order stuff. In a chemistry class, that means they need proficiency on lab safety before they can appropriately perform a science lab experiment; in a history class, they need proficient knowledge before they have the historical context/skill to successfully research, engage in simulation activities, read primary sources, etc.
Anyway, here is what I do:
First, I assign the video lesson
In the days before the quiz, I field students' questions by email, during study hall, before school, etc. At some point I also print copies of the quiz and place them inside each students' tabbed manila folder. If students need a modified version, then that's what I insert instead.... They will never see each other's quiz sheets, so my students don't even know their assessment was different!]
2-3 days later: They take the quiz
Same day: I check everybody's quiz while the students....
How I handle retakes:
How does the grading work for these assessments?
14 students had to fix at least 1 question [85%]
3 students needed a second retake attempt [85%]
2 (out of 84) never did that retake, so their 50% score was stuck in the gradebook.
Sooooooo whaddya think? You made it this far in the blog post, so you must still be interested. Like I said at the start, this system has evolved over time and probably will again... maybe with your input!
Today we are well past the halfway point of vacation. I still have tonight plus a 3-day weekend ahead of me, so it's not really Panic Time...but it is also true that this morning I had NO IDEA what will happen in my classroom next week. When we return to school this Tuesday, I must 1) wrap up the Revolutionary War unit and 2) start the Constitution/government unit. After an early-morning hour of perusing old folders, and another hour at the Kia service center (because I really should get that bright-red AIR BAG light taken care of!), I finally made some progress.
This unit haunts me every year. It probably deserves its own blog post. For one thing, it's just so big! Articles of Confederation, federalism, Northwest Ordinance, executive power, the Philadelphia Convention, checks and balances, James Madison, DBQ skills, current-event connections, the Supreme Court, the postwar situation that inspired/caused many compromises, those compromises ... not to mention the Bill of Rights! Today I decided two things:
Once I had made those decisions, I turned my attention to planning next week. I know that when I have those days prepared, then I will feel less nervous about the new month, and about school in general. I should be a better person, but I know myself.
I didn't yet make a lot of progress for next week, except to further simplify the Unit Objective summative assessment. At first, I planned to request a 3-paragraph response to "What are 3 main reasons why the US won the war?", which earlier Need2Know videos and tasks had directly addressed. That was going to happen before the vacation, but got squeezed in favor of the "We Live, They Died, You Tell Their Story" mini-research and storytelling project. (Dammit! That's another future blog post!) (Yes, the Hamilton reference is completely deliberate. Thanks for noticing!)
Now the assessment will be similar but simplified, because I will give them the 3 reasons to explain: the British were weaker than they seemed; the Americans were stronger than they started; and they got outside help from France, Spain, and Holland (England's enemies). One paragraph each. Friday, during class. Boom.
This would be simpler if it weren't for the Wednesday problem: we have a full day of parent conferences on January 3rd. That means I have students on Tuesday, then Thursday before the Friday summative assessment. Ugh. Must solve that complication tomorrow....
Maybe you did not notice, dear reader, but this blog was unavailable for a couple weeks this December. My exile was caused by three barely-related phenomena:
1) My personal laptop totally crashed in mid-November, and blogging on my 14-inch school-provided Macbook was just too cumbersome.
2) Work stuff got more challenging around the holidays, so it was much easier to make excuses.... I did more journaling on paper, but much less tweeting & typing.
3) I had an existential crisis about blogging.
How much should I care about whether former & current students/parents find this blog and see "how the sausage gets made" in lesson planning? Is it totally foolish to post my failures, my feelings, my fears out here for the world to see? If I address those concerns by censoring myself on this blog, does it still have value for myself and for readers?
Those questions are still valid, but here's the thing: un-publishing this blog for 2 weeks did not make me feel better as a digital citizen, as an employee, or as an educator. My fear of over-exposure got replaced by a stronger feeling of disconnection from the outside world. Almost immediately, I read fewer colleagues' tweets and blogs because I wasn't as inspired to see reading as an interactive conversation. (I did play more online games on the smartphone, which nobody could argue was a better use of my time!)
<--- Reading this book the past few days helped me to adjust my attitude to reflective blogging. I'm only on chapter 4, but already I can tell this book is telling me things I kinda knew but needed to hear. It's not about becoming a heartless sociopath, but about giving the right number of *flips* in the best kind of way.
If I write what I know, what I feel, what I experience...
and I'm not being cruel, antagonistic, or unfair...
then how the flip could that be a bad choice?!?
Soooooo.... I think you can expect MORE honesty, more disclosures, more specifics, and hopefully more useful blogging in this space for 2018.
Meanwhile, I have also considered the future of #flipblogs. More on that here soon. (Tomorrow?!)
The Declaration of Independence mini-unit that I blogged about earlier has finished. Here are the data of results, which seem pretty good to me! You can tell the graph is realistic because there were a few kids this didn't work out well for: 12 of 83 that were well below the A- average ... but 20 students earned more than 99 points by succeeding with many of the built-in challenges!
Below is a snapshot of the assignment sheet for the culminating task of this unit. Students got the sheet at the beginning on November 14th, with an in-class explanation and introduction from me, BUT they could not start this project until all previous tasks were completed. I set daily goals for those tasks, which about 60% of the class achieved; that means they started the project on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Their work was due on the Wednesday after the holiday.
Yes, the number of points could add up to 113%, which a handful of students actually attained! I like this form of grading checklist because it gives some flexibility for me and students, but also enough clear guidance that the score makes sense (I believe!). I'm really not a fan of late points, and the bottom-right corner box is a rare consequence. As it turned out, NOBODY lost the 15 points for lateness although a handful (the 6 you can see in the graph above) did not meet requirements because their submission was way too short. I will conference with those students this week to discuss what went wrong (usually it was poor use of class time for the earlier tasks, which limited their effort on this project).
I took these pictures a few days ago in the middle of the process. The hands are "Declaration Turkeys" which was the 4th task of the series. That link will show you the assignment details. I snapped the other picture last period on Friday afternoon (Nov 17th) as my students were hard at work while I patiently waited at a table for the next students to seek assistance or verification. When that's what Friday's Period 7 looks like, we must be doing something right!!
3 of the tasks were video-based; 2 were not, including the Declaration Turkeys. I could not have done this without reliable tech access for several class periods (7 days in total) which I achieved by signing out one of my school's 8 laptop carts. Yeah, I know I'm lucky.
I think we all appreciated the lack of formal quizzes, but that only worked because of 1) the novelty of this unit, 2) the efforts we had made the previous 3 months to effectively learn from videos, which did include those formal Need2Know quizzes, and 3) I was still assessing the quality of their learning from videos, albeit with a crude 2-point scoring system.
Will I do something like this again? Yes!!
Who is this flipping guy?!
Andrew Swan is in year 18 of teaching middle school (currently 8th-grade US History in a Boston suburb). Previously he has taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English, ancient history, & geography in Maine and in Massachusetts.