Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flipping your class without technology

This year I took on the adventure of flipping my class.  I wanted to be able to spend more time working with my students on higher level tasks and less time giving them the basic information. I chose to flip my class to meet that need.  Most of the time a flipped class is done with the students watching a video explaining the basic information at home and then the typical homework is done in class with the students getting help from their peers and teacher.  This allows for differentiation and for the ability to tackle more complex tasks in class.  

What happens if you don't have access to technology.  That is what I ran into during 4th quarter.  Due to state testing, I did not have access to the chrome books like I normally do.  I still wanted to have my students learn the basics at home so we could tackle the higher level tasks in class.  To do this I created a summary for the students to read.  They had to read the summary and underline evidence in the summary to answer the essential question I gave them. For example, when they read about how stars are classified their essential question was how do scientists classify stars? After they read and marked the summary they had to put the information into Cornell notes.  For this one I had them also create a tree map (a graphic description that shows how they are categorized).  The following day in class the students worked on an H-R diagram that had varied level of questions.  My students did this type of flip for all of their universe topics from the solar system to stars to galaxies.  It worked really well and my students liked the fact that they could get help on some of the harder level questions.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Student Choice

Student motivation.  You here that all the time.  How do I motivate my students to do the assignment. One of the most simplest ways to increase student motivation is to offer the students a choice.  This week my students were given a solar system menu choice.  Working in pairs they had to complete three TASKS in their investigation of the solar system in order to make a tic-tac-toe. They had the choice to make a travel brochure, comic strip, flip book, or presentation.   They also had the choice on which question to investigate.  Gravity’s role in our solar system? How Jupiter’s gravity influences our solar system? Is Mar’s the only place in our solar system where life could potentially exist? and Why is there life on Earth and not other planets?  The students were so engaged.  Some of them created their projects using google drive documents and some of them printed out the templates to use.  They were learning about the solar system and how gravity affects the objects and having a great time doing it.  Before they turned in their projects I had them rate their experience with the project and give me some feedback.  Here are some of their quotes. “we loved it! We had so much fun working together and letting our creative and funny sides show”.  “We liked it because it was digital, creative, and we can learn things better this way”. “I loved how there were many choices” “We liked it because it was challenging and fun”.  Most of the students gave it 5 stars with many comments like those above.  Now you are not going to please everyone and I did receive a couple of 3 out of 5 stars.  However, when 90% or higher are saying it was great we want more of these I know it was a success.  You can see some of their projects below.

If you would like to purchase this lesson please visit my Teachers Pay Teachers Store 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Adventures in ISTEM: What does it mean?


I have been a middle school science teacher for 15 years and during that time my philosophy as a teacher has definitely changed.  As I have discovered different teaching practices, ideas, and mindsets my thoughts on what is important has changed.

FIRST CHANGE: I have shifted my grading from the typical percent scale to a standards based grading scale based on Marzano's learning scales.  I allow my students to retake assessments, within the grading window, until they show mastery of the standards.  Their grades are based on what they know, not on effort or how nice their assignment looks. This allows students to learn perseverance, to continue to try hard, and to be ok with making mistakes in the beginning.  Most of their assignments do not count against their academic grades. They are simply assignments for them to learn and investigate the topic without fear of it affecting their grade.  This allows for more Academic Risk Taking.

SECOND CHANGE: When our district eliminated advanced classes my classes became mixed with Resource students, EL learners, GATE identified, and everything in between.  I knew my teaching had to change in order to try and meet all the needs of my students.  I began differentiating using the Depth and complexity icons by Sandra Kaplan and scaffolding them to meet my lower level students. I decided at the beginning that I would teach to the higher level learners and then scaffold to help the lower level learners reach the goals.  Teaching in this way means that every student is pushed to work at their highest level.  It also means that the highest level for one student is not the highest level for the next.

THIRD CHANGE: Most recently in the last two years I have incorporated technology into my classroom.  Last year I started with using google drive with my students and doing some blended learning activities.  This year I took on the challenge of flipping my class having my students learn the basic information at home and spending more time in class clarifying, enriching, and delving deeper into the topics.  The results have been amazing and better than I ever expected.  Students can move at their own pace to learn the basics.  It allows for more individualized instruction.  And I am better able to meet the needs of all my students.   I have more one-on-one time with my students.  It has also opened up my classroom to do more challenging activities and higher level DOK activities.

As my Adventure continues I look forward to transitioning further into a student lead classroom  from a teacher lead classroom moving the lifting of the learning from me to my students.

What does Adventures in ISTEM mean?

Why did I decide to call my site adventures in ISTEM?  Teaching is an adventure. Its a journey.  No two days are alike, especially in middle school.  To me adventure means discovery, excitement, and learning.  In my adventure I have tried to shift from a teacher heavy class where I just give the students the information to more of an inquiry class where the students discover the information on their own and I'm more of a coach to guide them. That is where the I in ISTEM comes in.  Inquiry investigations about science using math, technology, and engineering practices.