Archive for the ‘Classroom Management’ Category

The Flipped Classroom

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I am starting to see lots of information about the “flipped classroom.”  This has grown out of the Kahn model, which was talked about at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference.  Here’s a link to learn more about TED and the Flipped Classroom.

It is the type of thing that I start to wonder about when it comes to education.  While in theory it works really well, it raises a whole host of questions.  Here are some that I have:

  • How much time does it take to prepare the videos that kids need to watch?
  • Does this span every grade level?  Or where should you start with this model?
  • What if there is no computer in the student’s home to watch?
  • How do you deal with the student who hasn’t bothered to do the homework?  (This is an age-old question, but I wonder how this works.)
  • What goes into the video?  It is just a teacher talking, is it clips that make things clearer to the kids?  How much “set design” do you have to do to make kids pay attention?

Here’s a link to a teacher, Mike Gorman, at 21st Education Technology and Learning.  He is also starting to think like this. There is some good information here.

Obviously I am in the nascent stages of learning about the flipped classroom.  But I find the whole concept fascinating.  How about you?  What do you already know that you can share?

Rainy Day Recess Activities

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

I was once in a teaching workshop with a woman who was raised in Alaska.  I remember asking her if it was hard as a kid to not be able to play outside at recess or after school for so much of the year.  I clearly remember her answer:  “Oh, we’d still play outside until it was 20 below.”  I still don’t think I’ve recovered from the shock of hearing that.

Having grown up in California and spent most of my teaching career here, I can’t fathom kids playing outside in that kind of weather.  Luckily, we have such mild temperatures for most of the year that the kids can be outside just about all the time.  That being said, we are not well equipped for the more inclement weather that winter tends to bring.  The only protection the schools have are overhangs extending from the classrooms.  The kids eat their lunches outside every day of the school year, rain, shine, or otherwise.  And there’s nowhere for students to go when it rains at recess, except back into the classroom.

When I was teaching, rainy days usually brought eye rolls and emissions of “Ugh” from the teachers.  The kids tended to be positively squirrelly with pent up energy and noise levels tended to increase exponentially throughout the day.  Perhaps that’s why I always thought it was funny that one of my students’ favorite indoor games was Silent Ball.

Silent Ball entails all the students sitting on top of their desks while a ball is tossed from one student to another in random order.  The object of the game is to stay as silent as possible and not drop the ball when it is thrown to you.  Anyone talking must sit down in their seat and is out of the game.  The last person left sitting on their desk wins. The teacher monitors to make sure that all students are getting equal amounts of chances to catch the ball, and to make sure students are staying quiet.  (I never had to monitor that much because students who were already out were happy to point out if anyone else was talking.)  Surprisingly, this game could keep them entertained for quite a while.

Another simple game the students loved was Four Corners.  One person is picked to be “it” and must close his or her eyes.  The rest of the students choose one of the four corners in the room.  Once everyone is in a corner, “it” calls out North, South, East, or West (or for littler ones: 1, 2, 3, or 4.)  The students in that corner are out and must sit down.  “It” closes his or her eyes again and play continues.  Once there are four students or fewer, they must each pick a different corner.  The last person who is left without his or her corner being called wins, and is now “it” for the next round.

Heads Up Seven Up is a game I loved as a kid, and students still love to this day.  (It seems the simplest ones are always the longtime favorites.)  Seven students are picked to stand in the front of the room while the rest put their heads down on their desks, close their eyes, and stick one of their thumbs in the air.  The seven students each then quietly tap the thumb of one of the students and then return to the front of the room.  Then they say “Heads up seven up!” and the seven students who were tapped have to try and guess who touched his or her thumb.  If he or she guesses correctly, they replace the student who tapped them.  The game begins again once all the students have had a chance to guess.

One game I learned from another teacher didn’t have a name, but is similar to I Have Who Has? in that students have to be listening to cards being read in order.  It requires a few minutes of prep time the first time, but after that the game plays itself.  It’s a great sponge activity as well.  Write out a direction on an index card; have at least as many cards per students in your class.  These can be very simple, such as When the teacher says START, stand up and say GO! The next card read would then read, When someone yells GO, stand up and open the door.  The card after that would read, When someone opens the door, stand up and shake the teacher’s hand, and so on.  Pass out all the cards and then say “START.”  The students have to be listening and observing what’s happening.  One rule I had to institute was that everyone had to wait until the person before them had sat back down in their seat, otherwise it was too confusing to try and follow multiple students doing activities at the same time.  Keep the set of cards to play over again at another time; the students don’t get bored of it!

Most of the above-mentioned games are for younger students, but I was surprised at how much my older students loved the games too.  Of course, rainy days are also a great time to play curriculum-oriented games as well.  If there is a game you’ve played in the past with your students, feel free to bring it back out, even if the subject has already been studied.  It’s great for review!  They may even forget that they’re doing “schoolwork” at recess.

Reading Aloud in Middle Grade Classrooms

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

After lunch my kids used to come barreling into the classroom.  They had wolfed down lunches and then run off to play basketball or gossip among themselves.  They came into class sweaty and chatty.  They would throw their backpacks down, grab their books, pens and papers, and sprawl in their chairs.  How would I ever get them to focus after lunch when they really wanted to continue that basketball game?

So here’s what I did.  You might want to try this, it was easy and it worked.  I read aloud to them.  I picked up a good old-fashioned book, and took the first few precious minutes of the class to read.  Some might question this.  After all it wasn’t getting them right to work, they weren’t being engaged in an assignment.  But to that I say, phooey.  They were getting to hear a story, one that I knew would captivate them.  As 7th graders they wouldn’t pick up books that they thought sounded “babyish.”  But if the teacher was reading a book to them they had to listen didn’t they?

My students hadn’t had lots of exposure to the bigger world so I tried to find things they could enjoy.  One of my favorites was Old Yeller.  Of course it was what Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, would call a “cry book.”  At the end of the book there was always a few students with their heads down on the desk, tears dripping from their eyes.  I found the best way to handle that was to not.  I just let them cry.  If they wanted to talk about it later we did so privately and individually.

Another kind of story the kids liked were those that were a bit absurd.  I remember reading James and the Giant Peach.  Any time I read a book I planned where I would stop each time.  However, with this book we all got carried away.  I almost finished it the first time I read it aloud to a class.  To be that enthralled by a book sometimes makes it okay to just read aloud for an hour.

For a group of particularly challenged learners I read the first of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  With these I had to spend a lot of time talking about vocabulary before I began reading.  While it might seem simple, most of my students were second language learners, so it took a lot to help them understand.  But they did enjoy the books and often asked me to read the next one in the series, which I happily did.

If you teach young students no doubt you read to your kids, but what about older ones?  I always felt if nothing else the kids could hear a really good book.  And it must have worked, as they always calmed down as they listened and enjoyed the story.  I had finished reading and we could progress through the rest of the class, focused on whatever the task at hand for the rest of the day.

I’m a Dancin’ Machine…

Friday, July 8th, 2011

I just returned from a wonderful vacation. My husband and I spent five fun-filled days in Las Vegas—at Dance Camp. I have written before that dancing makes me better at what I do. Being a student for an intense week of lessons improved on that.

When was the last time you spent real time as a student? Having to deal with teachers who you may or may not like with teaching methods that didn’t do anything to enhance your learning style? Who had no concept of learning styles? Did they know or care that you might be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic? And here I was dancing all day–one might have thought they’d make it easier for us. Not so.

The teachers just believed we were all kinesthetic learners who would pick up a tango routine in just a couple of hours. They were wrong about that. Some of us really needed the words written down to remember. So we (I) took notes. Those words then played in my head, and I was able to get the routine much better. Can teachers help adapt the learning?

Then there’s the practice. We practiced on our own with a group of friends. After much discussion as to what the order of the steps was, we all tried to dance the routine. What a sorry lot we were. My husband and I had one step totally incorrect in the practice. It wasn’t until the next morning when we went to class that we found that out. Then we had to relearn it correctly. Hmm, how many of our students do that, practicing something incorrectly with no one ever really checking?

This was Dance Camp, and it was lots of fun. I wanted to be there and knew I would have to work hard. So I was willing to accommodate the teachers. I knew they were pros and I could change things as needed or ask questions.

What about our students? Do they really want to be in class? Sure some do, but what about those that don’t? They also are young and don’t always know what they don’t know. They make mistakes and no one fixes them. School should be like Dance Camp. Hard work, learning new things, practicing, and a reward of something new learned and enjoyed. Let’s think about how we can make learning work best for our students.