Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Benefits of Flipped Assessments

Amy has been a music
teacher for 23 years.
Imagine the teaching schedule of a special area teacher in an elementary school. They are responsible for teaching every student, but in most cases, they only see them one time per week for about 45 minutes.

This time of year is exciting for my students because they are learning to read music and play the recorder. During a typical lesson for this unit, our wonderful music teacher, Amy Beasley, assesses each student individually. So with 32 students, she has very little time left for actual instruction. To complicate matters more, our students struggle to retain their learning in special area classes due to only seeing our specials teachers about once per week.

I started thinking about the amount of time individual assessments take out of Amy’s teaching day and a solution came to mind. If we allow students to take their recorder tests at home using Flipgrid, then the entire class period can be used for instruction. As Amy and I discussed this idea we brainstormed a few more ideas and we found so many benefits to using this assessment model. 

Increased Instructional Time

Assessing students through video means that Amy does not have to spend class time individually assessing each student. Instead of having about 10 minutes of instructional time with students this week, Amy can spend more of her class period teaching. 

Individualized Feedback

Before, Amy’s time with each student was very limited, meaning there was little time to provide feedback- but not anymore. Amy and I set up individual google docs for each student so that she can provide specific feedback. This also helps her to track the progress of her 132 fourth graders.

Increased Practice Time

In the past, not many students were motivated to practice at home. Now though, they naturally practice as they record themselves, trying over and over to get it just right. It’s not a perfect solution to promoting practice at home, but some students are practicing more than before.

Positive Music Experience

When using Flipgrid to take their recorder tests, students are able to perform without the pressure of their entire class watching them. Of course, students who play instruments will learn to perform in front of others, but at this young age, recording performance assessments is a great way for students to build their confidence and have a positive musical experience.

Online Instruction

In addition to having students practice and record their assessment at home, Amy and I also developed a way to provide instruction for students as they practice. A simple Padlet page now has a variety of short videos in which Amy plays each song for students so that they can hear each piece.

Challenges and Next Steps

Amy and I are so pleased with the potential benefits of flipping assessment. Not only can it address the issue of instructional time, but it also led to other ideas to improve the quality of at-home practice and feedback for individual students.

The greatest challenge that Amy now faces is motivating the majority of her students to actually record their assessments at home. We initially thought that the benefit of not playing in front of the whole class would motivate most students, but that hasn’t been the case. The next step is finding the right incentive to encourage student follow through.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Creating A Global Classroom

Last year, my class had the opportunity to travel to the island of Borneo through Google Expeditions. With the aid of smartphones and VR viewers, each student was able to explore the rainforest with me as their guide. While on our trip, we studied the ecological changes happening there as a result of deforestation. It was amazing!

Integrating technology in this way allowed me to provide a learning opportunity that used to be impossible. I want to be able to plan lessons with rich experiences for my students- opening their minds to the world both near and far.

I recently learned about Skype Classroom -a free community of teachers and experts working together to provide live virtual lessons, field trips, and collaborations around the world. Skype Classroom has learning opportunities appropriate for every grade level, and students do not need their own devices to participate. Your class can discuss a book with its author, collaborate on projects with classes around the world, and visit experts in their field.

Since each Skype Classroom experience is a live event, you can interact closely with your collaborator, asking specific questions and making your lesson or field trip highly relevant for your students. Here are a few examples of the experiences I’ve scheduled for my class.

Civil War Museum

My class traveled all the way to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond to learn about the life of a Civil War soldier. We were able to see artifacts, learn about primary sources, and gain a better understanding of life in the 1800s.

Indigenous People of the Amazon Rainforest

In a few weeks, we will have the opportunity to visit the Amazon Rainforest to learn about issues facing the indigenous people, study cultural similarities and differences, and explore the ecosystem there.

Writing Tips from an Author

To begin our poetry unit, we will visit with an author. She will share a lesson about writing with your senses and then guide us through practice. This will be a great way to make our writing come alive.

Give it a try! All you need to begin cultivating your global classroom is a free Skype Classroom account and a webcam. If you have tried Skype Classroom, I'd love to hear your favorite lessons, field trips, and collaborations. Comment below!