Student Centered Video Projects

To teach my students about indirect characterization, I created this video. In it, I discuss characters from The 5th Wave. This next part we’ll read, Wonderland, introduces a new point of view right, and I plan to ask my students to create their own videos. They can use our class novel, or another novel that they feel passionate about. I think this’ll be really powerful for them. It could be awesome!


The Queen of B.S. Projects


The two hour delay set me up right. No time to do boring lectures in class. Instead, I made two instructional videos, one on annotating and one on themes in To Kill A Mockingbird. That allowed my CP English class to finish watching the PBS special the Scottsboro Boys. They’ll have to do the background vids for TKAM at home.

Then, I had an epiphany for Regular English. We’re doing some creative projects to demonstrate they learned something in the first part of The 5th Wave. Everyone is working by themselves. Since the book is full of flashbacks and other unique plot devices, they can create a timeline of chronological events. To depict characterization, they can make digital movie posters that depict the actors they think best fit the main characters and explain how the author uses indirect characterization. Lastly, they can choose to draw what they believe is the climax to the story thus far and write a description of that part of the plot.

All that, and I got to read Divergent, too. Very interesting. I liked how the plot is slowly revealed and not just shoved down your throat. Maybe a little too similar to Hunger Games, but I still enjoyed it.

I once had a student who furiously accused me of coming up with the project I’d assigned on the spur of the moment. It was a “b.s.” project, according to him, because it was spontaneously conceived. I firmly believe that creativity can well up and geyser, even if at that last moment.

B.S. Projects and Book Junkies, unite!

Lift off into the wind

Yesterday, my PLN came through.

I have been struggling with students who seem more interested in tripping the flight attendant as she tries to serve drinks than in learning to fly. Wondering how bad it can get? Check out my post “Structure in a Flip Classroom.” I wondered if I would have to sacrifice the flip and turn on the “fasten seatbelts sign” to please my principal.

But I asked my PLN, and they came through. Here’s what one peer said:

Next, the moderators of #flipclass, my favorite (and only, honestly) twitter chat which takes place 8 pm EST, passed out the barf bags and warned we were entering a patch of turbulence. The topic? Student motivation.

So even the moderators of the #flipclass chat struggle now and again.  It gave me hope.

Today in class, I laid down the law. I gave the speech, about everyone having the right to a good education.  I explained that any attempt to disrupt or to avoid the task would mean instant removal, with a classroom detention with me to finish the flight.

And they responded. Excitement, on task behavior, and great work.

  1. Essential Question: Why is Egypt in turmoil?
  2. Assignment: Create a product that answers the above question

Note that we have read or interacted with the entire Egypt text set linked to the above Essential Question.

Flipping the Writing Experience

Yesterday, I attended the Ohio Writing Project’s fall conference, where teachers who receive their MAT from Miami University present their research.  As I was listening to Matt Glover, the keynote speaker, talk about how seldom students are given choice of genre in a writing workshop classroom, I started to see connections between the flip and the workshop.

If one considers the flip to be mini lessons, watched outside of class, then applied in the classroom, then the connection to the flip is obvious. For those who don’t know what the workshop is like, the teacher uses mentor texts to demonstrate a writing technique, teaches a mini lesson about that technique, and asks students to create examples. So making the mini lesson a video that students view on their own seems a natural part of the “video” flipped classroom.

But as I have learned more about how others see the point of flipping the classroom, my viewpoint on the flip has evolved. I have begun to see that student centered learning does not have to be watching videos at home. Instead, it might be giving students the opportunity to choose how they show you they have learned an objective.

Allowing students choice of genre to show what they have learned is moving towards mastery learning. I still fear this concept. How does one show mastery in an ELA classroom? But the concept of genre choice is one small way I might be able to achieve that goal. Here’s an example of genre choice:

During the conference, one teacher was discussing the topic of argumentative writing. She had us pick a color that resonated with us, and then gave us a paper that explained the psychology of that color. Then we were to read the paper and decide if we agreed or disagreed with the description of the color. We could use any genre to demonstrate whether or not we agreed. Some teachers planned a speech, others an essay. This is what I wrote:

Deep Blue
The ocean’s heart
the midnight sky,
the jaunty new pair of jeans,
defy the conservative,
reject the authority,
free the soul.
The ocean betrays,
the moonless sky chills,
and the jeans sit back,
with a smirk,
telling the world that
deep blue is NOT traditional.

From competition to collaboration

They start out my morning. Twenty two bright faces. They posted the required question to the required google form, or emailed me their problems, late last night. A handful show up to ask for a pass to watch last  night’s video assignment. Let it be said–they care about their grades.

But do they care about learning? The other day, I asked them to either read their silent reading book, a choice memoir, or to laminate their Writer’s Notebook. A scant handful was diligently reading a book, but the rest were talking. I broke out Class Dojo, which is a classroom management app I had introduced a few days before, and started noting which students were on task. All of a sudden, books were pulled out and more students began to read. If points were involved, suddenly they cared about doing what I asked.

On my favorite twitter chat, #flipclass, (Monday EST), we had a discussion about #pointsprostitution. It was mentioned that driven students seem to care more about “how many points is this worth?” rather than “what can I learn by doing this assignment?”

I want my college prep students to have student choice and be driven by learning, rather than points, but I am fighting nine years of training. Nine school years where they performed to get the A, not to learn the material.

One ray of hope–after reading Flipping 2.0, an amazing book that I recommend to anyone trying to flip their class, I went from a teacher driven video that showed literary devices in the beginning of their summer reading memoir All But My Life by Gerda Kline, to student created videos. Each group is creating a video that demonstrates one literary device. Once they’ve created their videos, I will post some links in this blog. They’ll be using Touchcast, a wonderful free app that I have used to create my flip class videos. (If you’re curious, you can check out my latest video via this link:

Onward, in the quest for student centered collaboration!