Saturday, June 15, 2013

Year End Review

I can't believe the year is almost over!  My 8th graders graduated yesterday and it was bittersweet.  I am really proud of them.  This class has grown up before my eyes.  I am excited for them and their future and at the same time I am so sad to see them go.

Now the point of this blog was to reflect on my teaching and to grow as an educator and I need to get back to that.  My blog began turning into a rant zone, which I thought would be helpful to get out, but since I really hate negativity I ended up avoiding my own blog!!  So to get back on the right track here is a small review of this year, the things I liked, didn't like and goals for next year.

This year I started out with recording screen casts of just my vocab and basic examples.   I was pretty happy with the way it  was working at first, most of the kids were able to watch the videos and they all kept up with their notes.  I began to notice that some students were just copying from other kids notes and not watching the videos.  At first I didn't mind since they were still doing the "work" of copying the notes, but I knew that I wanted to take these videos further then just basic screen casts and this started to irritate me because I knew that these kids would have problems down the road.  How could this be changed?   I didn't do a good job of teaching them how to learn from the videos and that is what caused that problem.
As we got closer to April (state testing time) I started to get really anxious about test scores and I didn't feel like my students were making progress so I stopped making my videos and went back to traditional lectures.  Again, I feel that it was my fault for not managing class time as effectively as I could.  So I don't think the videos were the problem with them not succeeding.
This year I am taking a free online course and so far I love it! In addition to making more engaging videos that include me (YIKES) I am already learning some great things to do with them in class to differentiate.  I am hoping to film most of my videos over the summer. It is a HUGE task, but I think in order for next year to be successful, it must be done this way.  I am hoping to be able to go into my building to do so since the lighting is much better, but my plan B is to film them out in my garage.  I've done 5 already and they pretty much suck!  I have got to learn to jazz them up since I am so used to interacting with my students during my lessons and I use a lot of questioning instead of telling during my lessons.

I still LOVE Edmodo.  We kind of got away from it when I stopped making videos, but the kids really loved it too. It seemed easier to share things with them on Edmodo than our school's SIS/LMS. Next year I want the students to use it more for interacting with the content instead of socially.
So my school has two COWS and I never ever use them because there is always issues such as power, connectivity, etc.  We recently got iPads and they seemed to work much better!  Since I don't have an iPad personally it was kind of hard for me to plan things because I don't know what works and what doesn't on them.  The one thing we did try out was the app Socrative.   It was really cool, but we just basically "played" with it like a toy.  It has such potential in my room that I will have to really plan out productive uses for it this summer.

Circle Trackers 
We started using these to track student's mastery of concepts taught this year.  It is basically a spreadsheet with the students names and columns labeled with the concepts taught.  As you observe the students you draw a circle for each concept and then start shading it in as they progress, so when a student fully masters the concept their circle is completely shaded.  It sounds simple enough, but it really was difficult to implement.  I like to carry around a composition notebook during class and record notes and things and it seemed like too much to also have to carry that with it and find the kids name and fill it in (it sounds silly when I write this but it is what it is!)  Now something that I am really interested in and think might work better for me is a program called Mastery Connect.  It is a website that automatically tracks students mastery by scanned bubble sheets.  I could see myself having students complete  3-5 questions and having them scan their own sheets to collect the data.  We played around with a similar program this year called Gradecam and it was pretty effective.

Six actual school days to go, now that I have sent off my 8th graders I am actually feeling energized about next year.  I know that I will post more in the summer and my goal is to really make this a productive one!


  1. "I have got to learn to jazz them up since I am so used to interacting with my students during my lessons and I use a lot of questioning instead of telling during my lessons."

    But isn't this an argument against flipping the classroom? You're saying you're trading "questions and interactions" with "telling and jazz" and it seems you're feeling troubled by that. So what else do you (or your class) get in that trade that makes the flipped classroom worthwhile?

    1. It would seem that way, however, there are two reasons I am interested in this method. The first is that my admin really pushes for the I do, we do, you do model. I find that the I do is where I lose the most TIME since everyone is at a different level. If I film the I do portion, kids can watch it, rewind it, copy the notes etc at their own pace.
      The second is so that kids can go back and review my lessons.
      The reason I was not happy with my videos at first is because I hate the way I look and sound on video! Once I got past that part of it and focused on what I was trying to accomplish, I'm not so dissatisfied!

  2. Sounds like you were winning before. Go back to interaction.

    1. Thanks! I plan to keep the interaction in the classroom for sure! The videos are just a little "extra"!

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  4. Like any 'new initiative' in (electronic) education, the teacher mus evaluate the worth and value in light of student achievement. Like Dan, I'd be concerned if your foray into a flipped classroom came at the expense of interaction and engagement. Quality teaching is about diversity AND an understanding of the students in your class. While I have flipped my lessons on occasions but I've never taken the plunge wholeheartedly. I simply don't believe flipping is the panacea some believe it to be.
    Be wise. Be engaging. Be passionate. Those are three things that are more important that flipping.

    1. Thanks David!
      I agree 100%. I am not looking at "flipping" as a panacea, just one of the tools I can use to help some of my students. I have a lot of students who are above level and won't even need to watch my videos, they need to focus on being challenged. That's the nice part of filming the "basics" of the lesson. Its available for those who need it, satisfies my admin, and frees up time to jump right in during class where I can challenge my advanced and really help my struggling learners.

  5. I also tried flipping my classroom this year and I also abandoned it part way through. I found my students were less curious; they were more interested in just completing the assignment than in exploring an idea/situation/experiment. Spicing up bad pedagogy with technology didn't change the fact that it was still bad pedagogy for me.

    1. Let me know if reworking your class videos changed your student involvement over the long-run... i.e. Let me know if they are still watching the videos come February.

  6. Thanks Andrew! Were your students less curious because of the videos? I find that my kids also have no interest in learning math. There is no motivation to discover the mathematics and that is something that I am going to work on this year. (this is my third year teaching so I still have a ton to learn!!)
    I still feel that they need some direct instruction and I also believe that it can come AFTER a discovery activity. Sometimes they are more interested in procedures after they have been forced to play with it by themselves first.