Sunday, February 17, 2013

Teacher without a voice

I have been dealing with laryngitis for over a week now and sounding like a 1-900 number operator for weeks prior. This has made me really step back and see what I am doing as a teacher. I cannot lecture (or should not be lecturing) so what can I be doing in the classroom? So much! My kids have been watching their videos that I have previously recorded (thank goodness) and have been actually reading and leading their own discussions in class without me. People love to sub for me. They leave notes like "the kids are so well trained and know what they need to do.." Well, they aren't trained, but they do know what they need to do. They need to take responsibility for their own learning and they do. It is funny what happens when we step out of the way and let them lead.

I know that many teachers do not feel comfortable giving up the power that comes from knowing all the answers. And it may be uncomfortable to say "I don't know" to students, but that is exactly the modeling that we need to be doing for them. We need them to see us not know an answer and then model for them how to find it. Those critical thinking skills are so key and so very lacking in our schools. So if you want to help your students this week, take a moment and come up with a problem that you don't know the solution to and then find it with your students. The experience will be very rewarding for you and the students as well.

Friday, February 8, 2013

CCIRA and a peek inside my class

I was so fortunate to be able to speak at CCIRA (Colorado Council International Reading Association) yesterday to a crowd of about 40 educators. It is amazing to see the epiphany light bulbs going off in a classroom when people start to ask the right questions about their classrooms and stop focusing on what their limitations are!!

I totally understand about focusing on limitations. I work in a state where I have not gotten an anual pay raise for four years, and the governor keeps cutting the education budget, and in this economy no tax payer is going to approve a tax hike. On top of that, as mentioned in previous posts, I don't have a job title that evokes respect (high school teacher). But when you can get them to focus on the students and the simple things that they can do, you can actually see the passion for teaching coming back into their eyes.

I am the first to admit that flipping a class is difficult. It is not give the kids a book at home and have them teach themselves and then do homework in class while the teacher reads email. Neither is it having kids watch videos at home and then doing homework in class while the teacher reads email. It is a tiring and mind bending undertaking and it does make you more tired. But the benefits so outweigh the negatives.

Someone asked me yesterday what my class looked like. No two flipped classrooms are the same mind you - so you can see what a day in one of my classes (British Literature) looks like:

1. Kids come in and journal for 15 minutes - the topic is related to the information that we have covered and either tying it into a concept that we will be discussing on that day or to a relevant topic in their lives or the world around us.

2. Quick 5 min share out of ideas from journal

3. Students come up and get books and green sheets (a study guide that I developed that they fill out while we are reading in class).  We then read in class (either popcorn, readers theatre, me reading, or listening to the piece on CD). I am constantly walking around the class and stopping them to ask them questions that will aid in comprehension. This usually is about 30 minutes.

4. Then they have 5 minutes to complete the green sheet and return the books to the cart and turn in the sheet to the turn in box.

5. After this, they turn to the writing section in their spiral notebooks and we do an intensive workshop on a writing or grammar concept. This usually takes 20  or so minutes. I have them look back at their journal prompts and we work with that as the text for our writing or grammar focus. After I give them some instruction, I am walking around asking questions and helping students individually.

6. To wrap up the class, I have someone (or sometimes more) share with me what was one thing that they learned in class today. I then remind them to go to Moodle and do the assigned homework. I give them time at the end to ask me any questions one on one while the rest of the kids pack up and straighten up chairs and pick up trash.

7. Class ends and off they go....

8. Sometime later - I post to Moodle what we did in class as a reminder and for those who were absent  and use to remind them of their homework.

I hope that this helps you get some type of visual....remember though, no two classes look the same - even for me.