History, we can confidently assert, is useful in the sense that art and music, poetry and flowers, religion and philosophy are useful. Without it -- as with these -- life would be poorer and meaner; without it we should be denied some of those intellectual and moral experiences which give meaning and richness to life. Surely it is no accident that the study of history has been the solace of many of the noblest minds of every generation.
Henry Steele Commager
This course is what is called a “survey” course in American history. Our study commences with the birth of our nation in the Revolutionary War period, and concludes with the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. We will approach history as the living, breathing testament to both where our nation has been and where it is going, and over the course of the year we will examine the experiences of the myriad of groups, individuals, and political and social movements that have come to define our heritage. Our basic goals are threefold: 1) To develop an appreciation of the multicultural, pluralistic nature of U.S. society in the context of the principles of democracy; 2) To understand and appreciate American ideals as expressed in historical documents, speeches, songs, art, and symbolic representations and rituals; and 3) To recognize that our country’s original ideals are ever-evolving and in need of constant protection and reaffirmation.
We are starting a new school year and I wanted to share with you the exciting plans I have for 8th Grade Social Studies. While different from what you and your student are used to, the learning environment I am creating is designed to have a positive impact on your student’s learning.
This year I am using a teaching method called “Flipped Mastery”. So what is the “Flipped” in “Flipped Mastery?” The simplest explanation is: I am reversing the expectations of what will be completed during class and at home. Class time will focus on practice and application under the guidance of me, the teacher. Homework will focus on taking notes and exposure to the basic content. There is more to it than that, but the goal of this change is to make better use of class time for your student.
What is Mastery?
No longer will students be pushed on to the next learning objective after a test is completed. Students must demonstrate mastery of a concept before moving on to the next. Students will demonstrate mastery through Mastery Checks in which I assess the students in their learning. If a student receives an 80% or higher on their mastery check, they will then be allowed to move on; if not, they will need more practice. This will mean that your child will be allowed to learn the material at their own learning pace. The focus in class will be learning and for the students to realize that all the videos, activities, assignments, and assessments are there to help them and to demonstrate what they learned.
Before you read on to discover the details of what “The Flipped Classroom” is all about, please watch Mr. Zoeller and Mr. Bergmann explain what will be happening this year:
What does homework look like now?
For homework, students will now watch video lectures, screencasts, created by me or other teachers, and complete a list of questions online for each video. During the video, students will record notes, answer questions as they appear in the video, and finally respond with a question either about something they did not understand, want more information about, or something new that they learned.
The videos give students the power to learn at their own pace. They may rewind, pause, or rewatch each lesson. As a self-directed learner they can go back over concepts they did not fully grasp the first time it was explained.
Each video is roughly 8 to 15 minutes and covers one or two concepts. They are accessible through my website, Google Classroom (students), and a YouTube channel. Students will be logging into a website called EdPuzzle to watch the videos for my class. Because the lessons are posted online just about any internet-capable device can access them, such as a smartphone, iPad, or computer. If a student does not have access to a device with internet at home there are resources available to them at school. The library is open from 8:05 am to 4:00 pm daily and the Chromebooks and computers in my room can be accessed before school starting at 8:25 am and after school starting at 3:00 pm. I also have the ability to load the videos onto a flash drive to watch at home.
If you have any concerns about your student’s access to the videos, please contact me so I can help.
Important Strategies for Success:
Students should plan on spending TWICE the time doing their homework as the video is in length (a 10 minute video will take ~20 minutes to watch actively, take notes and reflect on).
Students should have a quiet place to view the videos free from distractions.
Watch the videos with your child to see what they are learning and to check if they understood the material.
Students need to watch the video BEFORE class. Class time is all about practicing the material so if they come to class without watching the video they will not get as much practice.
What does class time look like now?
Class will begin by reviewing student answers. We may go over several examples as a class or students may discuss them in small groups. Part of this time will involve reading their questions and getting them answered. This time serves to refresh student memory of the lesson they viewed the night before.
After the review, students will work on an activity related to the lesson. These activities are designed to help them practice and develop their proficiency with the new concepts. Students are encouraged to work together and help each other, being constantly reminded that one of the best ways to find out if they understand a concept is to explain it to someone else. I will be continually moving throughout the room helping students by explaining or clarifying any misconceptions. The flipped model provides more time for one-on-one interactions, giving students greater access to guidance and support.
The flipped model also frees up class time for students to work on projects, create their own content by writing their own examples, record their own short videos to explain a concept, perform research, and engage in interactive learning activities with peers.
I know that group work can make some students and parents nervous, however the focus of the small group work is to create an environment where I can better meet the needs of each student. By working in small groups I can differentiate my instruction and provide a supportive learning environment for each student.
What do I ask of parents?
The Flipped Classroom enables you as a parent to become more involved in your student’s history education:
If internet access is not available at home, provide your student with time to stay after school to watch the video in the library or my classroom.
Provide your student a quiet place to watch the lessons each night. (I recommend using headphones to limit distractions).
Watch the videos with your student so that you can learn along with them and help when it comes to doing regular practice at home the night before a test!
Encourage them to take their time watching the lessons which means taking advantage of pausing, rewinding and rewatching the lessons.
Ask your student questions about what they watched and have them summarize the video for you.
Encourage your student to get ahead of the minimum pace. Being ahead of pace ensures the student's grade is always good, allows the student more time on sections they find challenging, and makes unexpected absences much easier.
What do I ask of students?
Students are still completing homework each night in preparation for the next day of class. However, it is the type of homework they are completing that has changed. Instead of completing a page of practice problems on content they just learned and may still have questions about they must watch a video and take notes; two skills they have developed over the years and should be confident performing. So homework is all about using the skills they already have. Students are not required to be masters of the concept before they get to class, but they should have basic knowledge of it and be ready to practice. My class requires students to take responsibility for their learning in the following ways:
Students must plan time to watch the video while they are still awake enough to understand and connect with the content (Before 10 pm is highly recommended).
Students must take the initiative to go back and watch videos or sections they don’t fully understand.
Students must make sure that if they are absent, they still watch the video and come to class prepared.
Students must take the initiative to communicate with me either online or in person regarding any issues they have with watching the videos. They can come in before school, during lunch, or after school to watch the videos before they are due.
What if your student watches all the videos and is still struggling to understand?
I am still here for help. Before school, during class, and after school, students can meet with me to get more help. Students can contact me anytime through my website, email, or Google Classroom. Class time is all about help but I can also make arrangements to meet and help your student outside of class as well.
What if I still have questions?
It is difficult to anticipate all the questions a parent may have and I know the changes I am making to my course are very different. Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone conversations are great too but I may not get to respond until the next day. I look forward to working with you and your student to make this a successful year of learning!!!
John-Paul Saindon, Teacher
United States History
Freedom Middle School