Playlists: competency-based learning

I’ve tried 3 units (2 with 6th and 1 with 8th) based around the idea of competency-based learning. It’s going well! I’m going to be starting another one with the 8th graders after state testing.

It works like this: I first break down the standards in each unit. Then, I break down those standards into specific skills and see if any of those skills can be grouped together. Each group (or skill that can’t be grouped) becomes a playlist.

For each playlist, I then develop learning activities for background knowledge, formative assessments/activities, a competency-based summative assessment, and extension activities. Then I push the playlist out to students.

For example, when we were learning about nonfiction this last week in 6th grade, one group of skills was about argument structure and evidence in autobiographies/biographies/memoirs. The playlist was centered around a few videos (I had to make one), them picking one formative assessment to do, a 10-question self-grading google form quiz, and a couple of games that helped them learn more about argument. You can check out the playlist here.

The key to these playlists is two-fold: choice and mastery. The more choice the better. For mastery, if they don’t get it the first time on the quiz, they go back, do another activity, and take the quiz again.

This playlist isn’t one of the best ones I’ve made. I spent way more time making playlists for my unit I did this with for 8th graders. For those playlists they had so much choice! Check one out here. Choice on how to learn the background knowledge, choice on what formative activities to do (individual, partner, whole class), and more choice on extension activities. This takes a lot of preparation time, however. When making that unit, I think I counted that I created around 50 activities and 10 quizzes.

Here are the positives that I’ve found:

  • Students get to choose what to do
  • Students can pick how they want to learn
  • Students, if they don’t get mastery the first time, have an opportunity to go back, learn what they didn’t at first, and then prove mastery.
  • I can work one-on-one or in small groups with students much more often and in a more targeted manner to teach very specific standards/skills

Here are the negatives that I’ve found:

  • It takes a TON of time and creativity from the teacher side to create a good playlist with lots of choice
  • There are still the same “predictable” disengaged students, although I’ve found that there are fewer with playlists than with traditional teaching
  • It is quite a bit of paperwork/keeping track of scores
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Create your own dystopia! Creativity, choice, and voice!

We are wrapping up a dystopian literature unit. During the unit, we have studied civil disobedience, dystopian characteristics in several short stories, and have written an essay evaluating the satire inherent in a piece of dystopian literature as well as the civil disobedience in that literature as well. This next week we are finishing up the unit. In addition to a test and a BreakoutEDU, I thought it would be fun to have students create their own dystopias.

View the assignment at this link.

In this assignment, the main goal is for students to have an outlet for their own voices through creativity and choice. Students get to pick an issue in their own lives or their community (or the world), and then exaggerate that issue in the form of a dystopian satire. Students get to choose the issue, and then they also get to choose how to create their dystopia. I am having all students write a quick summary of their dystopian world; however, all students get to choice how to creatively bring these worlds to life. Some of the websites I’ve suggested are Canva, Storyboard That, and Adobe Spark.

I have several digital choices that I’ve come up with including simply writing it out as an actual story, to creating an infographic or a comic or even a propaganda video. I’ve even left it open for students to propose their own ideas for creation if they want. I’m excited for all the creativity!

Students can work in small groups, pairs, or alone as another layer of choice. In order to give some audience to their creations, I’m setting this assignment up as a contest as well. As we do with most projects, students will post their work to Google Classroom and will view each other’s work. In addition, I will have students vote on the dystopia creation that they feel best embodies a dystopia, is the best example of satire, and is the most creative.

Creating our own commercials

We have also been learning about rhetorical devices: ethos, pathos, and logos. After analyzing them in commercials, students created their own commercials.

First, all students had to write a script in a Google doc template. This template had them think about the big 5 questions when analyzing media, but for their own commercial. They also had to plan out each scene and how they were going to use rhetorical devices.

Next, students created a 4-slide Google presentation. Each slide simply had one image on it. Each slide was a scene in their commercial.

Third, students used Screencastify to talk over their presentation using their script. This created their commercial. Students posted these to Google Classroom.

Lastly, students viewed and critiqued each other’s commercials using a Google form.

Tomorrow they are going to find logical fallacies in their own commericial and other students’ commercials. I specifically teach fallacies after having them create the commercials because it creates a special kind of horror when they realize all the fallacies they’ve used. : )

Creating memes to learn logical fallacies

We are currently learning about logical fallacies in my class. After learning 8 basic fallacies, today was a day to practice.

First, I wrote a script of a play in which the 2 politicians debating (Smith and Jones) used fallacies. The debate moderator (Doe) asked the audience (the class) to identify the fallacies. The kids enjoyed it and they learned how to spot the fallacies “in the wild.”

Next, students created memes that were examples of fallacies. We used Google presentations and Google image search to do this. Here were the steps:

  1. All students got on an editable Google presentation. Each student got their own slide.
  2. Students then found a meme image on google images. You can do a search for “blank meme” and lots will come up
  3. Students put this picture in their slide.
  4. Using word art, students inserted words over the picture to illustrate a logical fallacy
  5. We then went through them as a class and guessed which fallacy each meme was illustrating.

It was super fun! If you’d like to see any of them, just check out this presentation.

When talking gets your down….

I’ve talked too much. Plain and simple–that’s the truth! These first few days of school my throat has hurt at the end of every day. And for me, that’s a sign of failure as far as the teaching I want to have occur in my classroom.

You see, my philosophy is that I don’t talk to the whole class. Or, at least I talk to the whole class as little as I possibly can. Instead, I prefer to talk to students individually. I can usually do this since I run my class in a semi-blended learning sort of way.  However, this first week of school, we have had no computers. Blended learning without technology is almost near impossible. Also, there are so many things that I need to go over like how the grammar website works, where the books are, etc.

I do try to teach procedures and class norms in a fun, student-centered way. Day one there is no syllabus talk and I use a TLAP lesson. Day 2 is a BreakoutEDU with a short rules discussion. Day 3 was story time with students writing their own personal life themes. Day 4 was speed dating with our class movie trailer and then our infographic syllabus. Today was a lesson using Ted-Ed and student mini-interviews to talk about reflection.

However, this adds up. Even I’m only talking to the whole class for 10 minutes a class period (which means that the students are talking at least that much PLUS work time for them), I’m still talking to the whole class for 50 minutes total every day. And that’s a TON.

I am going to keep reflecting on how I can change this for next year, since every year it will be the same situation: no chromebooks until  the second week of school. Most every solution I come up with for this uses technology. So, for now, I’m stuck with a scratchy throat and 50 minutes of talking total each day until they get their computers.

But tomorrow they do! And tomorrow we will learn about taking care of our chromebooks and make some awesome memes on Google Draw to teach each other about it.