Monthly Archives: March 2015

Balancing Act

To be very honest, I think I finally realized what ‘busy’ meant, was when I had my daughter. My husband and I often crash after a day, look at each other, and say, ‘Remember when we used to be soooooo busy before we had a kid?’ Then we laugh.

When my priorities changed and my life began to revolve around one single little life (prime example – I was late to #flipclass chat tonight because it was bedtime and we needed some snuggle time), I quickly learned that I really don’t want to be working as much as I used to at home. So I became much more efficient in my work at school. This also changed my outlook on what I expect of my students outside of my class. While I imagine (like all teachers do) that my class is the most important (;p), I acknowledge they also have up to 6 (even 7) other classes, a job, a sport(s), friends, the drama of being teenagers, and a family (for most) who would really, really like to spend time with them.

Yup. My students are stressed out.

gmfwd4

 

I like to think I try to lighten their stress level, rather than add to it (although I’m sure I do at times – hell, I do it to myself often enough). I’ve found over the last few years a few things that seem to help keep my students’ (and mine for that matter) blood pressure at a reasonable level.

  • Keep it Simple Mentality: I make a point to not over complicate – my subject is pretty intense on its own, so my ‘out of class’ work is kept (usually) to two things – vodcasts & studying/review – Both of these are done at the pace of the student, and can vary in length based on unit & need. While it always is more beneficial a student have a vodcast complete by the date we discuss it, all my students have the entire unit to complete them without fear of grade penalty. Many have figured out the value of doing them on time, but allowing the timeframe to extend the length of the unit has limited stress and many more complete it on time than don’t.
  • Purposeful Work: I’ve become much more reflective in asking the reason behind why I assign something. I will not give work outside of class unless there is no other way around it. If it is not needed – they don’t get it. There is no need to add more to their plates ‘just because.’ And because they don’t always have work to do outside of class, they know I must have a really good reason when they do.
  • What’s in a Name?: This may sound a bit silly, but I decided to change the phrase on my agenda from ‘Homework’ to ‘For Next Class.’ This wasn’t just a change in semantics, it was a change in attitude. The work I put there was meant to be completed by the next time we meet. It could be done whenever – during class if time was there was time (and since converting to flipped learning – this happens often), in a study hall, before school, after school with me…the key was that it didn’t have to be done at home.

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So it turns out that by placing less on my students’ plates outside of class, we actually make more out the time we have together. This may be all anecdotal – and some will argue that I don’t have the data to back this up, but I’ve been at this long enough to know when things are better. We do have tough days but, by paying attention to my students, by listening to them, and by getting to know that my class is not the center of their universe – we breathe easier, and learn more.

 

 

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Student Created Content: Wicked Worth It

Tonight’s #flipclass #flashblog is all about student created content!! This is something I’ve been tinkering around with on and off over the past year, and have really started making it more of a thing this year.

And it is wicked worth it.

This year is the first year for AP Biology at my school, and I’m lucky enough to be teaching it. I have an A-MAZ-ING group of 11 seniors who are pretty much psyched to learn everyday (although occasionally senioritis seems to creep in). All but one of them I had as sophomores in advanced biology, and in order to bring life to AP Bio without it feeling like a complete re-hash of what they did two years ago, I’ve tried to be creative. The two main ways we’ve accomplished this is through greater reflection on their learning and having them more directly involved in creating the content.

There have been two ways in which they have been involved in creating content:

  • Creating Vodcasts
  • Google Presentations

Creating Vodcasts

This turned out to be an amazing exercise of two levels: 1) My students were able to share their understanding in a way that was for the purpose of teaching others, and 2) They gained a much greater appreciation for the process I go through when I create theirs!

I gave them a number of screencasting (Snagit for ChromeScreenCastify, & Google Hangout to name a few) options and a day to play with them, I wanted them to use what was comfortable. They had a topic and were expected to put together an outline (based on our standards for AP Bio) of their plan – then they went to town to create them.

Here’s a few examples of their work:

While this did serve its purpose and the students were able to learn the basics of cellular respiration; it was not the only thing they learned. They put themselves out there in a way that is different from just a regular ‘ol project presentation.

What they created wasn’t just for me. In fact, it wasn’t for me at all. It was for each other. Their understanding hinged on how well they were able to get their message across. Now, I didn’t disappear during this process. I was there with them as they developed it, and worked with it, and guided them when they had questions. The vodcasts aren’t flawless, and I’m pretty sure they all wish they could go back to fix them and make them better, but they were vulnerable and they dared to put it out there, and I’m proud of them.

Google Presentations

Play-Doh Translation

The second way my students have created content for the class is through presentations. While I’m sure there are some who may not see the difference between this and students being asked to create a presentation on a topic – the BIG, HUGE difference is the audience they are created for. These weren’t created for me to grade. They were created with purpose to teach each other. This is game changer – students see a bigger purpose when the audience is wider than when it is just for the teacher to look at, grade, and hand back. This gives them ownership in what they learn, and various ways in which to learn it.

And for this reason – it is wicked worth it.