I’m cursed with an overactive brain. The more I learn about learning, the more I want to change the way things are going in my classroom. The more I want to change things, the more overwhelmed I become with the changes that need to be made.
As I look ahead to the new year and going back to the classroom, when ever I start to think about what I will be teaching students, I can’t stop the spiral of thoughts. It starts like this, “Ok, I know that I will be using the online program that the district bought this year with my English only science kids. Therefore, I have to read through the next lessons and figure out what is happening each day. While I do this, I will see if the teacher who is ahead of me has begun a Google slides presentation and adjust or add what I need for my classes as I go. If they haven’t made anything, then I need to take the time to do this. When is this going to happen?”
Then I think, “Now for my dual language science kids. They need the same content and they will do the same hands-on activities, however, I have to provide the content in Spanish and also figure out how to give them practice with that content. How will I do this?”
I delivered the last bout of information by some Google slides and a Nearpod that I had made two years ago with Cornell note templates that they filled in and added their summary and questions to. I gave them daily formative mini-quizzes which drove them crazy. I ended up the unit with an engineering project for them to apply the basics of force and motion to their design. I originally planned for the summative grade to come from their analysis and conclusion about how the building went and how they could improve if they were allowed too try it again from scratch. But as I look through these papers I see a ton of copying going on because all of the papers are the exact same thing. So the teams just took the information from each other and copied the reflection and analysis answers from each other. Who knows if they actually understand the principles of science that I planned for them to learn? Which student wrote it or if it was all of them together, I have no clue.
So now I begin to rethink what I need to do to find out what each individual has learned. Maybe a short online Google form quiz to get a quick reading of what really stuck about force, motion, mass and speed. Or, as I just watched in a #DitchSummit interview with Eric Curtis, a shared slides with students making their own representation of what happens and then commenting on each others’ responses.
“This time for the next bit of content”, I muse, “I would be really happy if I could give them some sort of lesson where they find the information themselves and then teach each other what they need to know, like in a jigsaw.”
I don’t really know how to do this properly, though. Last year I had this brainstorm idea that I thought would be quite awesome. I split the earth science that they needed to learn into expert groups. One was in charge of the earth’s layers, one plate tectonics and plate boundaries, one had to learn about continental drift, one had to learn about convection currents and it’s connection to the movements of the crust. Each group had a scientist to learn about who discovered something about their main subject. Their task was to answer some specific questions that were given to them, make a Google slides presentation with the information, make a note frame for their learners to fill in and find a lab or hands on activity that would help their learners understand their content and finally make a quiz in Google forms for their learners to take after they got the content. Well, it was too much for most of the students to wrap their minds around and I wasn’t able to give the support that they needed to do their tasks well enough to be ready to teach when they were divided into their teaching groups. It felt like a lost cause for several of the groups and I had to end up giving them the information in the end anyway. It would have been much better if I had realized that they needed to learn about how to prepare each part of lessons like this before being given the monumental task of teachers.
Maybe for this unit, I could make a hyperdoc lesson for the expert groups to follow along in and I could have them make videos of the content they have to present instead of Google slides. They could post them to the comment feed in the Google classroom assignment and then watch each other’s products, comment on them and use the feedback to improve their learning.
Next I think, “Ok, so since I have to teach them this content in Spanish, I need to make sure to have a bridge lesson that will wrap things up by teaching them some aspects of grammar and language that are either exclusive to Spanish or English or are similar, like cognates.”
This worked well for the short unit I did at the beginning of the year for the carbon cycle. I made a drawing of the cycle and then projected it onto butcher paper and added the labels for the processes along the way in both languages and then posted it in the classroom for the students to use for making a process paragraph and a mini poster of the cycle. They also had a list of process sequencing words in Spanish to use as they did their writing. It even helped my second language learners in my English only science class to get the content easier to have that poster up in bilingual format.
Well, I have been writing this post over the last 5 days or so and tomorrow is the day I have to go back into the classroom with 4 lessons ready, (or actually 8 since I have the two different languages to contend with). I still haven’t a clue as to what to do. I have been watching Matt Miller’s Ditch Summit videos and want so badly a do-over with this vacation. Juggling family and work has never been harder for me. I HATE having to go back and not have something new and better for my students. Something that will inspire them to want to learn. Something exciting that draws them in and makes them not want to let go. I’m afraid that I will be going back to the same old thing because I haven’t been able to take the ideas I’ve gleaned this break and flesh out a new system of engaging learning and assessment. Read and answer chapter questions. Watch a YouTube video and respond to some prompts. Create a Google slides presentation to show to another group. Less than 18 hours to go. What to do…