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Trying to get flipped class up to speed

September 19, 2011

My experiment with the flipped class model, however imperfect, still goes on though I haven’t had much time to write about it. I have found it takes more time to prepare for some classes as I have to find videos or make them, and I have to re-imagine what the class looks like and prepare for this class.
At this point, there have been a few dud classes, but only a few, two or three. We focus on working on grammar problems from the textbook or workbook on the first three days and write on the fourth day. The textbook exercises seem to engage better than the workbook exercises I chose. In retrospect, the workbook exercises tend to be comprehensive while the textbook exercises focus on one issue at a time. This came through with subject-verb agreement where we did the workbook practices before the textbook and the class lost energy before the 50 minutes were up. When I went back to the textbook the next day, students were more engaged perhaps because they had less to control for and could focus better. If I did it again, I would use the textbook exercises first and the workbook exercises second hoping they would be useful for students to assess what they still need to learn.

Finding videos is not difficult; finding good videos has proven very time consuming. I had one ten minute video I liked very much, but it taught compound sentences without the compound sentence comma so I had to scrap that video. My own video making has slowed to almost nothing because I have found enough acceptable videos so far, but I plan on making a few in the coming weeks. Before I do that, I need to fine tune my observation skills and start marking the paragraphs in a way where I can get a better sense of the problems students are having. At present, my responses to student paragraphs have focused on feedback to the students, providing encouragement along with highlighting errors and suggesting some improvements. But with the numerous paragraphs and resubmissions with minor corrections, I have not gotten a sense of where problems lie beyond the obvious, problems with subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and sentence structure. Why didn’t I see this coming? I have been so wrapped up in getting the class off the ground along with the other classes I teach and coordinate that I missed out on this obvious element.

Students have done more writing in this class at this point in the semester than in any class I have taught. Some of the writing has amazed me. Last week I used a picture I found on of two legs dangling from a ceiling and asked the students to tell me what happened. They did with many different permutations. I enjoyed the stories and found good writing. This week they are supposed to write about a day in the life on one of four people’s pictures I used. Of the ones I have read so far, the results have been mixed. They have had trouble getting the action into a single day.

Also, we are having our first skill test over nouns, pronouns, and verbs (basically subject-verb agreement, past tense, present tense, and a little present perfect). I opened a Google document and told them I would use good items that they wrote for the verb part on the test. I had three pages of items to choose from and picked several items for the test tomorrow. I think this allow students to get used to the format and study for the test. It also may make the test too easy though I chose the items based on the needs of the test.

I am encouraged with the class and glad I didn’t know how much work it was going to be before I started because that might have scared me off. I like what the students are doing and know that I need to work on assessment and record keeping to make the class go forward more smoothly. I also need to work on setting up better objectives for the students so they know better what they need to learn such as the types of subject-verb agreement areas like count/noncount, gerunds, prepositional phrases of location, expletive ( or dummy) pronouns, collective nouns, indefinite pronouns, subjects separated from the verb by phrases and clauses, and relative pronoun agreement in relative clauses. In summary, it continues to be a learning experience that keeps on giving.

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