Ok, so here goes my first post. It will most likely be long, simply because I have so much to say! This is my first teacher reflection blog. I’ve decided that I needed to share what I was doing in the classroom. I became super frustrated trying to find others in deaf education that were flipping their classrooms. Not many people are out there sharing what they do. Even if I’m not successful in my attempt, at least someone else out there can learn from my mistakes. Another reason is that reflection is an important part of lesson planning. Teachers who reflect on what they did in the classroom will more likely create better instruction throughout the year because they are constantly reviewing what worked and what didn’t. Now this particular post is more about the WHY I’m flipping my classroom rather than the WHAT I have done so far. I promise to post where I am in the process, what we are doing, and how I am doing it.
So, why am I flipping my classroom? In deaf education, especially in the Language Arts classroom, teachers are met with very reluctant learners. Deaf students struggle with English and often times by High School, they may have completely given up on trying to read/write better. They are dual language learners who have often had very little exposure to either language (ASL or English) before entering school, so they automatically come into their education 5 year behind their hearing peers. Even my students who grew up with ASL as their first language since birth, still find learning English difficult, because English is an auditory/oral language. Much of the nuances surrounding English are based on how things “sound”. So for many of my students, completing assignments at home becomes a chore. Where do they get extra help? Especially if their parents are not able to sign very well? Or if dorm staff are not able to assist. Students often end up not doing the homework at all or copying from each other. Information is absorbed and wrung out on a slew of worksheets, journals, assessments, etc. Not much of that information actually stays with them. Are they actually learning anything? I’ve begun wonder. I want to do better. I want my students to do better.
I’m tired of the 4th grade plateau that deaf have been pigeonholed into. This has followed me ever since I was a kid in school. As a deaf child, I constantly had to fight to prove I could do just as well as my hearing peers, if not better. I am proof that we are quite capable of breaking through this glass ceiling but the pedagogy surrounding the HOW has left educators with more arguments than solutions. I want students to be able to think critically. I want them to take ownership of their learning. I want them to make choices that lead them to continuing their education beyond the classroom. I want them to think of literacy as a journey of exploration rather than a means to an end. I don’t want to teach anymore.
Over the years, I’ve found that my students do better with me as a tutor than with me as a classroom instructor. Why? They get individualized attention, I get to use inquiry more frequently when working 1:1 with students, and they get to work at their own pace. How can I transfer this to whole class instruction? The flipped classroom model attempts to put the instruction and teaching directly into the hands of the students and create teachers who are not so much instructors, but instead coaches or facilitators. Having a truly flipped classroom allows for different pacing (differentiation), and giving students a wider variety of options for demonstrating mastery. The downside is that it requires a lot of pre-planning and preparation.
I’ve always been fascinated by the flipped classroom model but have never been able to put it into good solid practice. I’ve dabbled in putting worksheets and notes online for students to access. I’ve created the occasional “mini-lesson on film” for students to watch at home and return ready to work in class. However, these things didn’t really FLIP the classroom. I still felt like I was doing a lot of lecturing or teaching but none of the information was being owned by the students. They sat their mindlessly paying attention just hoping to pass the class and graduate. This year I am determined to get students to take some ownership of their learning.
My first step was to sign up for Edmodo and attend the Edmodocon webinars over the summer. I learned so much! Second, I happened upon Cheryl Morris’s blog. She’s a HS English teacher in California. She has been collaborating with another teacher in North Carolina. They actually Co-teach their classes using the flipped model. As I read about their endeavors I realized that was what I needed to do with my classes.
To make a long story short, this is the year that I FLIP.
So, for the past 2 weeks I have been introducing my students to the technology they will be using in class, at home and in the dorms. They are extremely overwhelmed, but when I asked if they would rather go back to the old model of my lecturing and sending home worksheets, they all gave an emphatic NO. The freshmen are struggling a lot more than the seniors but that is to be expected. Even though I’m getting a lot of grumbles related to the technology aspect, the work they are turning in these past two weeks is wonderful and full of effort. They are writing their own blog posts, participating in discussions on current events, and helping each other with new concepts. One of their first video lessons was on creating leveled questions (based on Costa’s Levels of Questioning). They struggled with the concept but as they were watching the videos, they stopped and discussed the information with each other. They would work and use me as a “tutor” to help scaffold their learning. I walked around the room to help as needed. I’ve also seen an increase in students coming to see me after school or during their advisory period because they “really want to GET the assignment.” I’m able to document discussions online and demonstrate their mastery of a wide variety of ways. I’m not looking forward to the daunting task of redoing my lessons in video or online demo format but I think the benefits will far out weight whatever challenges I face.
If any of you are interested in taking a look at what we are doing, send me a message!