Workshop Days and Removing the “Big Table Demo”

What is one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in?  Why the change?  #IMOOC Week 3

I try to mix up the projects we create each year so that the students aren’t just doing the same ol’ thing.  I also try to mix up the way I deliver the content, skills, and techniques to students each year so that I am always keeping current in my practice and working towards continually meeting everyone’s needs.

My absolute favorite thing that I’ve done new this year was to get rid of large group demonstrations.  *gasp!*

I wanted to workshop a few skills to help create choice for our first art project this year, and in order to do that, I would have had to teach 14 different techniques to 6 different classes.   Feeling overwhelmed at the thought, I took the idea of a flipped classroom and filmed short videos to demonstrate each technique.  We called it “Workshop Day.”  Kids watched the videos of me teaching; they could pause, fast forward, and rewind as needed.  At first, I felt like I was cheating a little, because although I had technically “taught” all of these lessons on camera, I wasn’t having the whole class meet together to watch me do it live.

Then, I observed something really amazing.  Kids who either already knew how to do something, or picked up a technique very easily, could skip ahead.  Kids who needed things repeated could re-watch, and I was able to work more one-on-one with anyone who might be struggling a bit.  As a result, each student in my room felt that they were able to master most of the techniques, appreciated learning at their own pace, and retained much more.

I’ve since found ways to incorporate this strategy into many of our projects, and so far it has been extremely successful.  It has allowed me to introduce more student empowerment of choice in either materials or concepts, and kids just seem to be “getting it” more when we cover some of the more difficult topics.

I still use whole class demonstrations from time to time, but only when it feels appropriate for what my students need at that time.

Winter Break Wrap Ups

We are one week away from Winter Break in our district, and the excitement is in the air!  And while I have definitely been catching up on my Christmas movie traditions at home, one place you won’t see these DVDs playing is in my classroom!

No matter how tempting it is sometimes to just stick on a movie when the kids are a little stir-crazy, our school has a policy that any movie played must have some type of connection to our curriculum.  I’ve seen some neat ways teachers have addressed this – especially on team days.  During Halloween, most of the school had team days during the core class periods, where kids participated in different team building activities.  One of the grade levels played “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” for one of the class periods.  Afterwards, students discussed instances where the characters showed good and poor character, and how each situation could have been handled differently.  It created great discussion, fostered social-emotional learning, and aligned with our school’s character education goals.

When teachers show videos directly aligned with their own subject’s curriculum, there is usually a follow-up worksheet or activity that applies what they have learned to show understanding.  Sometimes these videos show real-life applications of what they are learning; for instance, one science class shows a video about what happens to the world when ecosystems are out of balance.  I’ve also seen language arts classes show the video version of whatever book they are reading, and have students compare and contrast.

I don’t usually play videos during my art classes.  Many of the movies that align with the art curriculum are surprisingly boring, or just not quite developmentally appropriate.

This past week, I started a ceramics project with my classes.  With the novelty of clay plus the approaching break, students were… let’s say having a little bit of difficulty focusing on directions.  I ended up addressing this by doing a sort of modified flipped classroom.  I found YouTube videos that demonstrated the ceramics techniques that we would be using, and the students watched them prior to creating their project.

What is your district or school policy on showing videos or movies to your classes?  How do you use movies and videos to supplement your students’ learning?