Okay. I think I have finally settled on a unit/topic I would like to explore for my major project. It was tricky making this decision because I could see the potential of many subject areas to pursue! I narrowed down my options to my favourite areas to teach: science and novel studies. I love the hands-on nature of science and the tangibility of it. I live for the “light bulb moments” that come from this subject and students making connections to the world around them. On the flip side, I love a good novel study or book club. My co-teacher from a couple of years ago always had a novel study on the go and I have also adopted this practice. In the past, I’ve done book clubs where students read a chapter section of their book and have a task they must complete for their weekly meeting. At these meetings, they share and discuss their work and insights. My students this year were so pumped on the idea of book clubs and having meetings together! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this kind of enthusiasm for a book club, but they’ve been so engaged in their small group discussions! On the book recommendation from Chris, we’ve been reading, Loser by Jerry Spinelli. However, I’m always looking for ways to re-vamp my current teaching practices and I figured this project would be a great opportunity to take a different approach with my book club endeavours! I was also thinking that the book club/literacy route may offer more flexibility and opportunities to be creative… Although, I’m not sure how that is going to look just yet. I have a feeling my plans will change as I go, but keep reading to see what’s on the horizon!
Who are my learners? What do they need to be successful in this course?
My target audience is Grade 4/5 with students being between 9-11 years of age. However, I will most likely use this course for a future group of students. Since I am not sure what my class will look like next year, I am going to create this course for my current students for a few reasons:
- It is possible I may use this course, or parts of it, this year.
- I have a diverse group of students with a variety of learning needs. I will go into more detail throughout this post, so hang tight!
- I will most likely have Grade 4/5 or that general age range in following years.
The question I’m sure you’ve all been wondering… Which books are being used for this book club?
- Above Level (Grade 5/6): Restart by Gordon Korman
- At Level (Grade 3/4): Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Below Level (Grade 2): Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown (Shout out to our Discord chat for helping me make this decision!)
It is important to note that I would (hopefully) be able to get my hands on enough copies of each book for each student. In addition, one of my students mentioned that they are more of a reader than a listener and was wondering if they could read their chapter section on their own, rather than listen to me read. This comment got me thinking. I have decided to offer students the choice to either listen to me read or reading on their own. Lastly, I feel like I should mention that it is possible my book options may change by the time Module # 1 rolls around, but for now, I’m feeling fairly confident in my choices!
English As An Additional Language Learners (EAL): This group of students is not quite reading English yet. They are able to read some basic words, but require support to read full sentences and comprehend what they’ve read. However, they are able to speak and understand conversational English. Most literacy-based tasks they complete require one-on-one support. Since this group will not be able to read their book independently, I will provide recorded read alouds for them to follow along in their book and closed captioning when needed.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) & Autism: This group of students benefits from large tasks broken down into smaller chunks, as well as brief and concise instruction. To aid with task completion and organization, I will use aids such as visual timers and checklists.
Dysgraphia/Dyslexia: This group of students will have the option to complete tasks using Google Read Write. Helpful features of this extension include spelling prediction and voice-to-text software. We use student Chromebooks, which all have this extension. In addition, the students I have in mind have their own device with these features. Like my EAL students, I will also provide recorded read alouds for them to follow along in their book.
Other Common Concerns
Access to Devices and Internet Bandwidth : During remote learning, our school was fortunate enough to have devices to lend out to students. For the most part, families had their own devices. However, should internet access or lack of devices pose a challenge, students will have the opportunity to complete their modules at school.
Attendance: Overall, attendance is not a major issue. However, due to the pandemic, attendance in my classroom has been quite sparse since the beginning of January. Should this pose challenges, students will have access to content via Google Classroom. If students do not have access, opportunities to complete tasks at school will be given. In addition, communication and reminders will be sent out through Google Classroom, written agenda messages, and Edsby. Currently, I am using Edsby for my online grade book and for family communication.
What is my course format?
The course design I have in mind incorporates in-person learning activities and instruction through video recordings. I struggled trying to name what exactly this format should be called, as it was difficult deciphering the many definitions of “online/blended learning.” In the article, “The Landscape of Merging Modalities” by Valerie Irvine, it is noted that semantics has made for a more specific understanding of different modalities, but has also complicated matters to a certain degree. As I read through the article, it discussed flipped learning. Essentially, content is learned before class and synchronous/in-person time is spent discussing or working on assignments. This seems like a good fit for my course design. However, I must consider the accessibility piece in order to create an equitable learning environment. Katia shared the work completed by her previous students. They discussed using a semi-flipped approach for students who do not have access to devices or internet at home. Therefore, learning modules would be completed at school during non-instructional times. I decided to use a flipped learning design, as this would suit my teaching situation best. I am currently teaching in an in-person environment, so I believe this would transfer smoothly because there are in-class components to this design. I am also partial to this design because it will allow me to work with small groups and individualize my instruction further in class because the whole-group instruction piece has already been completed before the students come to school.
Since I have never taught in a flipped classroom, I turned to ISTE for some pointers and stumbled upon an article titled, “Make Every Day A Flipped Day” by Team ISTE. The article lists a variety of resources to aid with designing a flipped classroom. I encourage you to take a peek at the link above if you’re going this route as well! In Jonathan Bergmann’s article, “4 Learning Strategies for Flipped Learning”, he highlights some useful strategies to consider moving forward:
- Relationship building results in greater student success.
- Learning must be personalized, meaning that content must be accessed by students in a variety of ways and assessment must offer multiple ways to show mastery.
- Students need to time to explore their passions. They must care about what they are learning.
- Project-based learning allows students to solve real-world problems. Content can be delivered through instructional videos and students can use class time for hands-on projects.
At this point, I am envisioning students watching their read aloud (or reading it independently if they choose) of their chapter section at home and watching how to complete their weekly task for their meeting. In school, students will work on their task and I will meet with my reading groups to check-in. Students will also meet in-person for their meetings. However, should there be a shift to remote learning, students still can have their meetings on Google Meets.
What is my course toolset?
I have some tools in mind that I plan on using. However, this may change throughout my project as I continue to learn more about online/blended learning. Nonetheless, here are some of the tools that have piqued my interest so far:
Google Classroom (LMS & Communication): I am planning on using Google Classroom as my basic shell for my course. My school division uses Google products and the students at my school (including upcoming ones) understand how this platform can be used. As much as I would like to experiment with Canvas, this is the most practical. I plan on posting assignment details on this platform. For students and family communication/updates, I plan on using Edsby.
Edsby (Communication): Our division recently began using Edsby. Eventually, it is supposed to replace platforms like Google Classroom. I wanted to take this year to learn the program better before I fully commit to using it as my only way to offer remote learning to my students. Although, I have been using it for daily communication with my families.
YouTube and iMovie (Instruction): Over the years, I’ve become very comfortable with YouTube and editing my videos using iMovie. For my read alouds and instructional videos, I will record, edit with iMovie, and post on YouTube. To add in voice overs, check-ins, etc. I will use Ed. Puzzle…
Ed. Puzzle (Instruction & Assessment): I’ve recently started exploring this tool and I love it! My students have enjoyed the personal touch it adds to my instruction as well. Not only is this tool great for including check-ins and comprehension questions, but it is also handy for assessment. It syncs easily with Google Classroom, so it stores each students’ response and shows me how long each student spent completing the task.
Google Forms (Assessment): Another great tool for quick check-ins or comprehension questions. I’m not sure how much use I will get out of this tool, but it may be helpful!
Quizizz (Assessment): I find this assessment tool very engaging for students because it is similar to a game, as its has points and rewards when students score well. Again, like Google Forms, I would use it for comprehension checks. However, I don’t know how much use I will get out of this tool quite yet!
Ditch That Textbook (Assessment): This resource has tons of great pre-made templates for teachers to use with their students. They are made on Google Slides, so they easily sync with Google Classroom as well. Keep reading to find out how I plan on using this handy resource for assessment.
Google Docs (Assessment): Very basic, but effective. If I need to make handouts or assignments, this is usually my “go to”. My students are familiar with how Google Docs works and it is compatible with Google Read Write for my students who use the spelling prediction and voice-to-text feature.
Jamboard (Assessment): I’ve used Jamboard before, but I learned this week it is capable of so much more than just sticky notes for brainstorming. Alice Keeler is a Jamboard pro, so I plan on exploring some of her resources. I think this tool would be great for my students’ book club meetings, as it is collaborative and engaging for kids.
Google Sites (Assessment): I’ve learned about Google Sites recently and I was thinking of using this tool as a way to wrap up book clubs as a final assessment. Keep reading to find out about my potential plans!
Bomb Bomb (Instruction): This was a new one for me that I learned about from the article titled, “How to Set Up a Virtual Book Club” by Laura Milligan. It appears that this is a simple way to record video messages using Google Chrome. In 2020 it was free for teachers, however, I still have yet to find if that still stands. I am not sure if this tool will be of use to me or not, but it seems worth investigating.
What are my learning objectives and course content?
Again, (because I have yet to plan a project that goes exactly according to plan) my learning objectives may shift throughout my course planning. However, in general terms, this unit focuses on building reading comprehension skills (e.g.: connecting, summarizing, predicting, inferencing, using evidence from the text to support opinions, etc.) by responding to text in a variety of ways. I’ve consulted The Saskatchewan Grade 4 and Grade 5 Language Arts Curriculum when selecting outcomes:
Weekly Structure of Activities (Meeting Tasks & Comprehension Checks): During their meetings, students will have an opportunity to share their task with their group. In addition, students will have a group to task to complete during their meeting to generate more discussion and collaboration. Students will also have brief comprehension checks to ensure they’ve read their chapter section and have an understanding of the content. Google Forms or Quizizz might be useful for this!
Wrap Up Project (Characterization): I love when students really embrace a character and have the ability to make them come to life in their own way! I have a few ideas in mind for the students.
- Chris mentioned in our Discord chat that he has started using Google Sites with his students as an online portfolio. I was thinking it might be interesting to use Google Sites as a way for students to create a website about a character of their choosing.
- A colleague from EC&I 831 shared a resource called Ditch That Textbook. Like I mentioned before, it has a variety of templates for teachers to use. Another possible idea is to have the students use one of these templates to create a social media account for their character.
How will I assess student progress?
Above, I’ve noted some tools that I will use to assess students, but it is important to emphasize that in-person check-ins with each group will drive how I adjust my plans and fill in the gaps where needed. This will be an absolute necessity for my EAL students! Having the opportunity for instruction to be completed prior to the students coming to school excites me. This allows me to differentiate in meaningful ways and address student learning needs in a more direct manner.
Send Help: Thoughts or Advice?
As always, I’m looking for feedback!
- If you have experience with online book clubs or flipped classrooms, please share! Any bit of information helps!
- As you’ve read through my plans, what are your thoughts? What do you think will work well? What do you think I could clarify?
- Tools! If there are any other ed. tech tools that you feel would be useful, please feel free to share. I’m excited to expand my ed. tech repertoire and test drive new tools with my students!
Thank you, thank you for taking a read and for offering your ideas!
Until next time,