Student Interviews & Project Doodling

I made it through the first week of school and the students are fine and so am I. Are all on talking terms and they left on Friday with a smile on their faces. It I'll be a great year. We (my team) have started a few new things in our classes and getting through the first week with a whole new schedule is not easy. Change is hard, but we made it. A couple more weeks and it will be the new normal in our classes. I can't wait for that. Bet there are more changes I want to try out. Small changes that I will try out for a while and see what I can do to improve it or get rid of it and revisit it at a later time.
This summer I was taking a couple classes and one of them I heard about was making time to talk with each student and do a short interview with them. Find out how they a doing and what they feel they need. So I have been thinking about this idea. We are supposed to do a short reading assessment at the beginning, middle and end of each year. I figure, what a great time to do a short interview with each student. So I will take 5-10 minutes with three students a day, four days a week, I figure I should be able to have a short meeting with each student as I have them read. I will put together a few questions that will help me understand some of the things they need. A few of the questions I was thinking of are;
- How is school going?
- Who are your friends that you are playing with right now?
- What is your favorite subject?
- What subject do you feel is the one you need to work the hardest in?
There are a few more questions I am thinking of, but I will only ask couple questions so the students can give me a few ideas what I need to look for with them. I am also thinking that I can answer any questions that the students might have for me. Sometimes students are unable to ask questions to the teacher without feeling the will be chastised or embarrassed. Taking a second to let the students know that they have my undivided attention and will answer any questions they have will be good. Tat will also help me understand what I need to look for. 5-10 minutes every month with each child will, hopefully, give me some great information work with.
Another idea I came across last year was an article called "Creating a Culture of Innovation". In it I read about Google using 20% of their employees work time to have them work on whatever they want, as long as it has to do with Google. New ideas, changes to old ideas, looking at someone else's work, whatever. I am not sure I can give my students a full day each week. I think my administrators would show me the curriculum and district pacing guides and remind me that I have work to do each day. But I can take an hour each week out of my class time and give students that hour to work on something that they can teach us, show us, help them learn, or have me help them understand something better.
So my plan is that once a week I will give them the hour and within a months they need to produce something they can show or teach the class. It can be anything, it just hs to have a purpose and it needs to be something they can show or teach. If it has something to do with our curriculum and subjects, that is great. If it doesn't, we will work that out. What is important is that each student will have the opportunity to work on something of their choice and teach others or show a finished product to everyone. I think I am going to call it "Project Doodling". That's what is going into my planner.
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Booting Up The Classroom

I love having a lot of technology in my classroom, but, with that technology comes  more work, especially at the beginning of the year. So here is the checklist of all that we do in our classrooms each year.
  • Check for updates on the mini laptops. 
    • Check for system updates
    • Flash updates
    • Virus protection
    • Java, and other software programs.
  • Update iPads
    • Add new apps we will use for the next few months.
    • Reset Restrictions
  • Check for updates on teacher computers
    • Electronic whiteboard software
    • Browser updates
    • Other software updates
  • Input student information (usernames and passwords) into programs we use in the classroom
    • Google Apps
    • Utahwrite (state online writing program)
    • Class wiki
    • Online testing program
    • District online reading program
The updating for the computers is usually done with the students in the first week. This lets me show the students how to update them and what to look for when a dialog box pops up. The students can then help some of the other teachers throughout the school.

The iPads get updated every three months to add or take off new apps we want to use. We have a core of apps that we use every week, but have a few that we try out for different subjects. 

Setting up the classroom has now included much of the technology upkeep in our rooms. What that has ultimately done is simplify what our rooms look like and what we actually do in our rooms. We do not run off much paper anymore. We try to put our worksheets on the computer or on a presentation for th students work off of on their iPads, computers or in a composition book. We have even taken some of the paperwork and put it on Goggle Docs to share with students.

Inputting student information has taken us the longest time. Thank goodness most programs allow us to import student info from a spreadsheet. That makes it easier.

There is a lot of set up in the beginning, but the payoff with what we can do with the technology is worth it.

A Little More Flip in the Classroom

School has started and we have moved another subject into the flipped universe. It is going to be an exciting year.

Last year as my team discovered and researched the flipped classroom, we decided to jump in with one subject, vocabulary. What an immediate impact in the classroom. We filmed a few videos a week for half the year and had the students watch them and work on the vocabulary at home. The students preferred it over the homework we had them do before. The parents commented on the attitude of the students and how it improved when we made the switch. The parents enjoyed watching the videos with the students and they learned a little also.

One thing we did not notice was improved scores on their tests. They moved a little, but not as much as we thought. We did notice that we moved faster in the classroom as we discussed the words and went a little farther into a discussion about the words. Our days became less hurried during the language time. We found more time to add in a few activities. Test scores increased a little, but the discussions became deeper and our class time was used in a different way. That is a bonus.

Seeing the success of the vocabulary, we flipped spelling towards the end of the year. A short lessons about the words each week cut down our talk time and moved us into a more vocabulary and pattern based activity with the words each day. Students started to understand the parts of the words, see the patterns, and not complain each night about doing their word sorts. We saw a little increase in their spelling scores, but the biggest increase was our time to work with the words in class. Another success.

So now we head into this year. Vocabulary and spelling are short subjects that make up a piece of our language in a day. We have decided to go with flipping our math program this year. That will be big. We sat down and planned out our days and the home learning we will be having the students do. Each night the students will watch a short math video while taking notes from the video. Students will look for key words and concepts and in the end write any questions they might have. If there are no questions we want the students to write something about where they would use or find the concept in their lives. When they come into math class we will start with a short assessment question about the concept in their video. They will collaborate with their team to come up with the answers. After our discussion we will review the vocabulary and questions students wrote down from the video. we will them move into the work or activity portion of the day. Students will take the lessons further, find answers, work on activities and play games. If needed, students will also be able to practice within a small group or individually with a teacher to improve their understanding of the concept. At the end of the class we will all come back together and review some of the concepts we have worked on previously. Students will work collaboratively on all assignments.

This is a big step into the flipped classroom. We are looking forward to the extra time to discuss and practice the concepts with students. We are excited at the possibilities of what we will be able to do. And so here we are in the first week. The hardest part of the whole thing is the change for the teachers. Changing our schedule and rearranging how we teach has been tiring. We are moving into new territory. We have been so excited to do more flipping in our classroom. It is worth the extra work and change.