Saturday, November 5, 2016

Week Reflections

Greetings colleagues! After a second week back from break, I am reflecting on how the last two weeks have gone. There are two things that I want to discuss this week: 1) a class exercise that I thought worked well in my classroom and 2) homework.

A QR Codes activity
This past week, I did a mini-lesson that I thought went well. My students are currently learning about the American Revolution. One thing I believe is important for students for context and engagement is connecting past and present. For the past couple of years, I have had the students compare and contrast the American Revolution with a modern revolution; one that took place during the Arab Spring in 2011. I picked four countries that the students could research. These four countries (Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen) still have strife within their nation today.

My mini-lesson activity involved the students going out into the hall for four stations, scanning a QR code that took them to a video, and had them write, at periodic times, on a sheet of paper about the conflict. I had the students write one-word summaries to a) make them get to their point quickly and b) save time. They were not researching these conflicts yet; they just needed to be exposed to what happened. It was a preview activity to get their minds running and their hearts connected.

I think the lesson went well. There were some tech stumbles during my first period, which is, sadly, why they are my guinea pigs! The other three classes were much smoother.

It was interesting to see which country they chose based on the preview activity. I will say that most students chose Yemen to research, and I truly believe it's because of the video that they watched. That video was much more visual than the other three. Now I know I need to find better videos for the other three countries to make sure they are engaged visually. 

Homework outside of school 
I have mentioned throughout my blog this year about my struggles with my current students. One issue that keeps popping up, whether in my class, on my small team, or in eighth grade, is a lack of completing homework. 

I will admit that I am from the camp that could totally do away with homework. I have read numerous articles about countries overseas that have no homework, about the benefit of play, especially at an early age, and how homework provides little benefit in the actual class. 

Part of me, still, cannot let homework go. I will say that I do NOT assign homework nightly as a punishment, nor do I assign regular homework for "practice." My only homework, Monday - Thursday, is flipped learning. Flipped learning, like my mini-lesson this past week, is meant to expose them to the content. Lecturing has little value in the classroom, in my opinion, so the "lectures" happen through videos or readings. I assess their focus and attention through quizzes where they have to pass with 70% proficiency. 

What has been a challenge with this group of students is that they do not want to do flipped learning. It is interesting to listen to them grumble about their classroom grade, yet not see the correlation between avoiding flipped learning and then having a failing grade in my class. Then it can be so enlightening when I hear a student in my class have that lightbulb moment where they say, "I learned that last night through flipped learning!" 

I am not ready to give up flipped learning; it has a purpose in my classroom and is meant more as a support than punishment. I believe that I do not implement flipped learning quite right, and it is still a work in progress. 

Anyway, back to my original rant: my students don't do homework. Period. But they also do not like completing work in my class. Period. If a student does not complete something in class that is due the next day, it becomes homework. So I am seeing this trend of students not working in class, but then not working at home. So they do not complete the assignment and have a low grade in my class. It is this strange catch-22 where I do not know how to help keep my students on track. I try to create engaging (not fun) lessons where they collaborate with each other and have creative opportunities. But even that does not feel like enough. Any advice? 

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website