I’ve been fascinated in the idea of a flipped classroom. The children I work with are grappling with much more than just how to do math problems. As a result, instructional time can be eaten up with the needs of the class. My schedule this year has allowed me to try out the flipped classroom in a controlled setting. Math is scheduled Monday through Friday, but I am not in on Fridays. There is coverage for my group, but they have been spending the time playing various math games. Over my December break, I had time to think about what the group should be doing to help them with the projects we work on when I am at school. I signed them each up for an xtramath account to strengthen their facts, and I started giving them specific math videos to watch on Khan Academy. I formatted the group, so they can practice their quick facts on xtramath. When they feel ready to move into content, they go to Khan Academy to watch videos and complete activities. I took the time this week to teach them the navigation skills needed for working independently on Fridays without me. There are a lot of skills they need on the computer before just handing the assignment to them, and the lessons gave them time to learn the routine. By yesterday, they were confident. What amazed me was that the same content I’ve been teaching was all of the sudden much cooler when in a tutorial video online– I think kids get sick of hearing my voice. The kids loved the control and the fact that it was on a computer. I can pick different videos for different children to help with the specific skills they need to hone. Fridays will now be much more productive, and I’m also collecting data! It’s so convenient, and the motivation and engagement has increased significantly.
I have been thinking of ways to enhance my math group– especially since my strength is literacy. I’ve been searching around for something productive for my group to do on Fridays when I’m not in school. I want it to challenge them, but I’m also aware that I’m not there to guide them. Always looking for free resources, I happened upon this one called XtraMath. In the week we come back from break, I’m going to spend some time teaching the group to navigate the site and independently sign on with their information.
When I was growing up, my computer classes were focused on typing and how to use specific programs. As the Technology Coordinator this year, it’s my job to facilitate lessons using technology. My focus is not on the smaller skills like how to save a Word Document, but on the bigger picture: to use computers to extend learning. The skills are absolutely needed, but children learn those skills through use, not through direct instruction (just like language). Every time I’ve gone to PD on a computer program, I find that I already knew 90% of what was presented because I’ve played around with computers. The creative aspect of technology is the part that’s harder to learn and harder to teach.
So far, I’ve worked with two classes in the lab. Our focus has been research on a topic they’re learning in class. One group is a fifth grade group and the other is a second grade group. It is so easy to differentiate the instruction with they way I have it set up. Some children are writing based on their research, and some are having their learning recorded on video. They’re each having a chance to express what they’ve learned in a way that is just right for them.
Before getting to this point, I needed to work on infrastructure– some of which is constantly evolving. The students have a student login with a student email account that I facilitate. I write the students an email as my prep for the lesson. Each child opens the email with their name in the subject, and they have a detailed list of instructions for their assignment. I can find appropriate resources based on their reading levels. My time with the group is maximized because I don’t need to give group directions– children are motivated to understand how to use computers.
Next week, I’ll have headphones for each computer, and I’m going to install a text-to-speech program for the children who will need sources read to them. This will make finding resources so much easier, as I will need to find resources for the child’s listening comprehension level instead of their decoding and comprehension levels. Many more resources will be accessible to them.
It’s amazing to have children creating instead of just filling in blanks on worksheets. They are excited and more invested in their work. I have more to think about for K-1, but maybe we will be able to do something similar with videos instead of writing. I want to move beyond the mindset of repetition and rote learning.
I’m the kind of organized person that has labeled boxes in my apartment for everything from dog supplies to checkbooks to stamps to matches. Everything has a place… and usually a color, too. My classroom was always well organized as well.
I’ve been exploring with the best ways to keep my digital life organized for myself and for the people I provide resources for. So far, I love Dropmark. It’s visual, easy to organize, quick to load, and there are different levels of privacy for each category. I’ve found it so helpful for the lessons I teach. All I need to do is send the link or link it to a QR code in order to share it with my groups.
I’ve also been collecting resources for teachers to begin to use in their classrooms and to start the flipped classroom model. The idea of the flipped classroom is to provide learning opportunities at home, too. Providing families with meaningful and safe resources for their children to explore at home will help children to see that screens can be used for more than games. It also means that the instruction in the classroom will be more rich with more knowledge about topics than a teacher could provide in a 30 minute lesson.
Here’s the beginning of my Dropmark. Check it out!
In addition to my responsibilities as Technology Coordinator, I teach a reading and math group. Teaching reading has always been one of my strengths, but I haven’t felt the same way about math. What I love about math does not come in textbooks; it never did. What I really enjoy is making meaning of math and solving puzzles.
This year, I’ve made a shift in my teaching, but it’s been really challenging. I have a fourth grade math group. For the most part, the group needs support in problem-solving and application of the algorithms they’ve learned so well. To teach the group elapsed time, money, multiplication, addition, subtraction, decimals, and general planning skills, I’ve created a project to plan a vacation for a fictional family. I’ve created an outline for them, which takes the stress off of knowing where to start and what information to gather. We’ve used a calendar to decide when the family should travel and made decisions about where to travel and what mode of transportation to take based on the amount of time it takes to travel to the destination, which we researched online using flight calculators and Google Maps. Next steps will be researching the destination, selecting activities, and creating a presentation with bar graphs and schedules for the family.
The challenge here is that I know I am facilitating the learning of more meaningful math, yet I can’t as easily check the skills off a list of organized goals– it seems disorganized and random; some of the goals are literacy goals, executive functioning goals, and technology goals. There are times we spend the bulk of an instructional block problem-solving how to navigate the iPad or computer for research. These goals are life skills that are being taught in my math group, but it can feel like a waste of time when I consider my list of math goals– even though I know it’s not.
Is this perception a result of the standards being used to drive accountability? Have I been taking them too literally all these years? Is it the fault of the assessment structure?
Seeing the level of excitement, engagement, motivation, and understanding surrounding the higher-level thinking and language of the project is what reminds me that this is the way we should be teaching math. Working with children with speech and language impairments has really challenged the idea of teaching a skill and then teaching its application through a made up situation (at least for me). People don’t learn through rote memorization and meaningless context, but our math standards and available programs suggest that it’s the way we should teach.
Every year of teaching, November comes, and the slump begins. Conferences are coming up with reports around the corner. There’s tension in the air at school and nothing ever seems to be done. The to-do list grows faster than I can even begin to tackle the items. The crazy thing is that it happens every year- you’d think that after being a teacher for a while, that we would find ways to even out the slump, but that’s just not the case. As a classroom teacher, this was always the time of year I’d ask myself why I teach… then it would get better.
One of the ways I incidentally combated the slump this year was setting up the iPad Program and disbursing the iPads. This project was huge to set up, and it’s only growing! I read so much about setting them up, observed at another school, wrote policies, gave teachers introductions to the system, and nervously put them into teachers’ hands. Seeing the excitement on their faces when they got the devices was definitely worth the work I put into it, and it’s given me fuel to keep going. I hope it helped with their slumps.
Even this blog post is therapeutic—I’m following through with my resolution to write once a week, and it feels great to get it done. I suppose taking the time to do things for myself is really what I need to keep in mind during these next few weeks.
The beginning of the year is filled with ideas, aspirations, excitement, and dreams, yet slipping in the vortex of roadblocks, late-nights, and paperwork has already begun.
It’s been a tumultuous fall, both personally and professionally. This year, my position as Technology Coordinator has changed my responsibilities at work, but it hasn’t changed my understanding of the operation. The experience so far has been overwhelming, frustrating, and rewarding. I wear so many hats- teacher, mentor, editor, techie, problem-solver, and the list goes on. I love all the hats, but I’m still working through how to manage all of them without being stretched too far. Having Fridays to decompress has certainly been helpful. I’ve resolved to write more, which I also look forward to.
My incredible co-teacher from last year is a colleague and helps me out in so many ways– both emotionally and professionally. She’s my springboard for ideas and our understanding of each other and the children we work with makes it so easy to try new and adventurous lessons.
I’m in the process of reviewing a lot of Digital Citizenship materials and finding the best way to go about introducing this new curriculum to our population. For those of you who have started this curriculum, have you done all grades at once (K-5)? Or has the process been a few classes a year and build on from there?