Spoiler: this post is longish and details a technological/pedagogical innovation and my plans for trying it next year, not me destroying my classroom in some kind of Hulk-Smash moment. Sorry.
We’ve got almost two months left in the school year, but I’m already thinking about September, and what changes I’d like to make for next year, now that I know I’ll be teaching the same major units I taught this year. It’s what I both love and hate about teaching sometimes; there’s always something you could be doing better, some new innovation you could be testing out, which is exciting but can often be overwhelming too.
This year, it’s flipping the classroom, explained in a handy infographic here, but also all over the place, as flipping the classroom is one of the hottest educational topics these days (in addition to Common Core, of course). If you haven’t heard of it before, flipping your classroom involves students watching recorded lectures and other videos at home, and then doing activities and problems in class, instead of the other way around (hence the flipping). So instead of listening to a lecture about bases and acids in Chemistry classes, you could watch an instructional and engaging video at home, pausing and rewinding as you see fit, and then come into class to ask questions and do fun experiments, applying what you learned in the videos. As I teach in a one-to-one laptop program, it’s especially relevant to me, because my students have guaranteed access to an internet-enabled computer and should be able to access anything I would ask them to view.
However, I didn’t see at first how this could really work in my class, because many English classrooms already run this way. I’ve never spent a whole or even half a class lecturing; my students are always interacting and discussing after reading at home, which seems like the flipped model exactly.
But then: grammar and vocabulary came to mind. These are the areas where I do the most direct instruction, where students could use the most repetition and practice, where repeated exposure to the concepts do seem to be best pedagogical practices, and quite honestly, where I feel I do the most mediocre teaching. Maybe I could “flip” my grammar and vocab instruction, and save class time for more engaging activities to reinforce what the students would have already learned. What if I could use the Virtual Grammar Lab instead of a textbook? Maybe I could use TED-ED to create interactive quizzes and activities with the videos I assigned for homework and track my students’ progress. Maybe I could preview vocabulary in class with context clues, use videos to reinforce definitions, then engage creatively with the words together. Could I set up a system where students would earn badges based on mastery of the content? Once I started thinking about it, flipping how I teach grammar and vocabulary seemed like a natural fit.
For me however, the biggest hurdle isn’t giving up class time or my own position in the spotlight, but instead, devoting the time to sort through these resources, see how best they would fit together, build my own comfort with the technological piece involved, and then map out a curriculum that would support, engage, teach my students, while encouraging reflection and setting clear goals. During the school year, I don’t have time to overhaul an entire part of my curriculum in a focused and productive way while juggling grading, prepping, advising, and doing the lesson or assignment tweaking I already do.
That’s why, even though it’s only April, I’m already thinking about September, and how I can use the summer to get ready. Much of the material I’ve seen on flipped classrooms involves teachers who make their own videos, for example, so setting myself a DIY-video project this summer would put me closer to this goal. I’d like time to experiment with flipping tools and resources that exist, test out the wealth of online grammar tools that are out there, and time to watch the dozens of videos even a quick search on “flipped classroom” turns up on YouTube. These are all activities that seem overwhelming now, but not too onerous once I’m out of school. I know I have a colleague in our Foreign Language department who uses screencasts to flip some of her instruction, and I know I have a colleague using TED-ED in the science classroom; I’d like to sit with both of these teachers and learn from how they’re using it. I have also been thinking about how to use more video in the classroom, in the most educational ways, as our library has recently added several streaming video resources, so I want to do more research and curating on the best resources to do so. I think video could be useful to provide background knowledge for our different units, but also to inspire creative writing assignments.
Looks like I’ve got a busy summer ahead!