To game or not to game? To flip or not to flip?
These are the questions of the week, and well, at the risk of being a COETAIL naysayer…meh.
Of course play is fun and engaging. I start most days with the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and a game of hearts is such a great way to hang with the family. For a quick fact-checking warm-up, a Kahoot! is fine. It resets students’ brains as they walk into the room and gets them excited to do some math. Kahoot!’s new feature of being able to download their results adds to accountability and is a way to measure progress. And yet…
Math is scary for a lot of kids and adding a speed component to math makes many kids anxious. I used to spend hours creating Jeopardy games only to find many kids quitting over the pressure and begging for paper study guides. I also find that an emphasis on speed reduces the kids’ interest in actual problem-solving and focuses them on wishful thinking.
If you haven’t heard of the flipped classroom, lemme give it to you here: Essentially, kids watch videos of the lesson at home and do the practice and application of what they learned in the classroom. Benefits? Sure there are lots of them. Principle among them that kids can watch the videos at their own pace and get support from their teacher when it really matters–the practice time.
I tried it on a few years ago with my MYP classes. I was absolutely convinced and designed the whole year on the flipped model. I mostly used Khan Academy, but supplemented with my own videos, when necessary. The kids, though apprehensive at first, loved it too. They felt supported and independent at the same time, and arguments with their parents over math stopped. They were able to progress at their own pace and were inspired to seek extensions. If a kid was absent, s/he could just work on the next topic from home. The flipped classroom model is flexible, allows for differentiation, and teaches kids that they can take charge of their own learning.
What’s not to love about it?
Good question, because I’ve decided I don’t love it. Ironically, my progression through COETAIL has moved me away from the flipped lesson structure. In my opinion, flipping is the same old model of teacher talking and kids practicing math; it’s just the place for these events has changed.
PARADIGM SHIFT: Less is More
Less homework and less lecture means more inquiry, more creativity, more application, more collaboration.
I am no longer married to a particular method or a particular set of tools. If a video or a game is called for, then sure, I’ll use it or make it. But if another method might be better, well then I’d rather try that.
Here are the elements I am now trying to include in my lessons.
- Determine the best way to introduce it. If I can I use inquiry, my first choice is to let them determine the formula or method or reasoning on their own. Could an interesting challenge engage their curiosity? Or is the best method a brief lecture? Brief. By which I mean an example or two on the board to get them started.
- Let them get to work. This might be a handout, but it could also be a Desmos activity or an application of the topic. Working in groups of 3-4 they can practice what they’ve learned and tackle ever more difficult problems together and at their own pace. I travel about the room and help them as needed. Some need hints or encouragement, while others need very specific explanations, but they hear them when they are ready to hear them, rather than in an all-group setting, where I know they don’t listen anyway.
- A quick wrap-up of what they learned at the end of class. Perhaps a game or a return to the challenge at the beginning–are they able to solve it now?
- A suggestion that they may finish the problems at home if they need or want more practice, but not a requirement.
- For those who were absent, I post a video of the lesson if I did any direct teaching or a video of the topic if the lesson was more inquiry based.
There’s a time and a place for everything.
Notice I do include videos and games, where they enhance learning. I don’t deny that flipping and games are valuable. But so are a wide array of tools that we have up our sleeves.
play by Judy van der Velden
100/31: Flip by Loren Kerns
Magic-Tree II by Hartwig HKD
Brighton Clock Tower by Dominic Alves