I would describe my classroom as a mix of a flex and a face-to-face instructional model. During our block periods, my students transition frequently among different learning modalities, including online self-paced learning, collaborative small group learning, and whole class instruction. They use online tools to become stronger readers, to conduct research, to connect with communities beyond our classroom, and to engage civically through blogging, virtual discussions, and community-focused projects. Ideally through consistent student-to-student collaboration, my project-based classroom allows students to see the importance of social justice and how it is infused in the literature content they engage with on a regular basis. Co-teaching and authentic project-based learning are key elements of my model.
Number of Students: ~15-25 students
Number of Adults: one teacher; one student teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 92 minutes (M, T, Th, F); 35 minutes (W)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Google Drive; Google Apps for Education; Gooru Learning; Adobe Photoshop; Newsela; Piktochart Infographic Creator; iMovie; iPhoto; Audible; Quizlet; Jupiter Ed; Google Hangouts
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: mobile cart with 34 Chromebooks (1:1)
Key Features: project-based; innovative use of time; student agency
A blended teacher’s personal mindsets shape her decisions as an educator. These mindsets influence general pedagogies, instructional approaches, and short-term decision making, alike. Check out how Johanna’s mindsets have helped to shape her blended instruction.
Communicating and collaborating with both colleagues and students' families is crucial in a blended environment. This is especially true if a teacher is doing something that looks very different from other teachers at her school. Check out how Johanna ommunicates and collaborates with both her colleagues at school and her students' families and how her methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.
A Gooru Collection is a strategy I utilize frequently in my blended classroom to personalize learning for my students. Students log into our class on the Gooru site to access a curated "digital playlist" of engaging resources that I have found online or created myself. These different "texts" can be videos, images, articles, websites--basically anything that can be accessed online. Students interact with the resources in the Collection at their own pace, and I make time in each class period to check in with each student while they are engaged in the Collection (this is facilitated by my students' use of headphones). Students can review an uploaded resource multiple times if necessary to gain understanding. I include questions after every resource to prompt my students' thinking and/or to assess what they are learning from the resource. Given the media-driven world in which we live, it is important for my students to have this opportunity to synthesize their understanding of concepts and literary elements through multiple text formats.
There are an infinite number of digital content providers and tech tools and education programs a blended teacher can choose to use in her classroom. Check out how and why Johanna uses specific digital content and ed tech tools!
A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties the students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Johanna’s culture impacts student achievement!
Socratic Seminars can be amazing learning experiences for students when they take the time to prepare what they will contribute to the conversation. Once the seminar prompt has been clarified, each student gets ready by reviewing their Annotation Logs to identify what evidence and analysis addresses the prompt. This preparation often takes 15 minutes, and during that time students use a graphic organizer to develop the key points they want to contribute. Regardless of how many Socratic Seminars we may have already done in the class, we always review the norms to ensure that the time we spend in dialogue is useful and inclusive.
Planning is an essential part of a blended teacher’s practice. In blended environments, where students can be at different points in a course on various modalities, blended teachers need to be very intentional about how they plan. Check out the video below to see how Johanna plans for instruction in her blended classroom.
The Warm Up is a strategy I use during the first 10 minutes of every class to activate my students' interest and to prepare them individually and collectively to engage in the content of the day's lesson. A Warm Up can be a journal write, a table conversation, a review of a short Gooru Collection (please see the "Gooru Collection" strategy video), or a teacher-generated survey that students take using a Google Form. With the exception of table conversations, my students understand that Warm Ups are silent exercises that allow them to reflect honestly and by themselves without the influence of other's opinions. Responding to a Google Form Warm Up is one of my students' favorite strategies because the common spreadsheet populated by their answers is shared with everyone across multiple sections of English 12, making students who are in different class periods feel more connected. The Google Form Warm Up also allows my students to practice working with data through small-group and whole-class conversations.
Just the Facts asks one to two students to summarize quickly the reading that will be used in the day's discussion. We follow a simple protocol of "Who + What"--citing which characters from the text did what significant actions in order to move the plot forward. When the initial student is finished sharing key facts from the reading, another student might be asked to fill in any other details. If there are plot details that are incorrect, it is an opportunity for other students to correct the errors. These "police report" type of summaries can be audio or video recorded, quickly edited, and then posted on to the class website as a more engaging way for students to review significant plot points from our class texts. Although there is an ideal reading pace at which I want students to move, some will be ahead of the reading calendar and some will be behind. Also, many students are anxious or reluctant to share out loud when it comes to analysis of the reading. Given that the Just the Facts reports the text's plot and simply the facts, more students are enthusiastic about sharing because the strategy allows different students to be the experts in relaying facts.
While I often use a Google Form survey or an opening conversation to start class and set the tone, there is also tremendous value in having students write their individual thoughts in their Writer's Notebooks. Ours is a mostly paperless classroom despite the fact that it is an English class, so these pen-to-paper moments are significant ones. Students understand that these journal entries are silent reflections meant to put them in the frame of mind needed for the day's lessons.
Generating student talk in the classroom is a focal point for my teaching, and it is important that those conversations happen in both high-stakes and low-stakes settings. A Warm-Up is the forum for a low-stakes conversation that can generate a high return. For example, the journey for a student to become an excellent oral presenter can be an uncomfortable one. Opening class with a conversation where students can talk with each other in anticipation of these growing pains does perpetuate a sense of camaraderie and support, although my students have referred to it as a feeling of "shared doom". Additionally, a teacher can have an influence on the energy of the class depending on what prompts are crafted for the Conversational Warm-Up.
A Moral Reasoning Conversation is a student grouping and discourse strategy that involves heterogeneous groups of 4-5 students holding table discussions about their responses to provocative questions that frame, go deeper with, or reflect on the day's lesson. This is an especially effective strategy to use when we are engaging with complex themes in the literature we are reading as a class. The purpose of Moral Reasoning Conversations is for my students to prepare the thoughts that they will introduce in a subsequent whole-class discussion or a more formal Socratic Seminar. The students are given a situation that asks them to use their individual moral compasses to determine how they would behave in a complex ethical context. They discuss these moral dilemmas with peers in their table groups. At key moments during the discussion, I introduce "wrenches" that add layers of complexity to the dilemmas and push students towards deeper critical thinking and consideration of multiple perspectives. I consider carefully how much detail to present regarding each initial moral dilemma, so that my students have the opportunity to develop their own "wrenches" for the Moral Reasoning Conversation.
Film Framing uses animated films students often remember from childhood as a jumping-off point for approaching the serious and often emotionally tough conversations that we will be having later in the class period about the novel we are studying. Given their visual appeal and simple storylines, these films are one way to support my students as they grapple with complex questions and apply literary theories and devices. Part of the analysis process for my students is tracking their observations throughout each clip and using those notes during the class discussion that follows the viewing. The understanding they gain through the film discussion on how to answer these complex questions and apply multiple lenses is then applied to our class novel. An additional benefit of Film Framing is that my students become more critical consumers of media in general.
Socratic Seminars are one method for discussing complex texts, and they are also useful forums where students can metacognate about their learning process and even share best practices.
One of the most essential steps for a successful Socratic seminar is the preparation of evidence that each student will bring into these discussions. One of the ways we prepare is through Pair Posters followed by a Gallery Walk. To give context, the seminars are whole class and entirely student-facilitated. Given all of the personality dynamics at play during the actual seminar, coupled with the ever-present video camera recording their thoughtful conversation that will later be scripted, it is fundamental that the students ground their opinions and questions in the text in order for the seminar to be a positive learning experience. One method of preparation that helps them do this, and that also generates enthusiasm for this high-stakes discussion, is dividing the class into pairs to create quote posters. After each pair is assigned a literary device, they then use their Annotation Logs to select text evidence shows how the literary device functions. This involves conversation and negotiation between the pair who then have to use the device analysis to connect back to one of the themes we have been studying as a class and incorporate an image that illuminates that connection. The public nature of the gallery walk that ensues after the posters are completed ensures that student pairs also spend time polishing the final product. Their peers will then take pictures of all the posters and decide which ones they might want to use as part of their individual evidence preparation for the Socratic seminar.
Annotation Logs in my class can be on paper or online, usually depending on what modality the student prefers, as well as what their access is to technology at home. Annotation Logs are a routine through which my students explore the unit text by analyzing quotes, asking questions, and making clarifications. Whether online or on paper, it is my routine to respond to their annotations. Because each student writes so many annotations throughout a unit, I have many opportunities to dip into their thinking at multiple points along the way. Annotation Logs are fundamental building blocks to some of my other classroom practices including Socratic Seminars, TIED analysis paragraphs, and essay writing. For each annotation in the log, my students must include their focus for the annotation, the quote itself, the page or line number, and the analysis. The focus of the annotation could be a literary device, a theme connection or an approach through one of the literary theory lenses we have studied. Citing the quote and where it is found makes for easy reference later on. The analysis is 3-4 sentences that shows how the quote addresses the initial focus they indicated. It is in this last part that I address any feedback by asking questions and clarifying any plot confusion.
The Socratic Seminar is completely student-run in my class, and I alternate between the inner/outer circle format and a single-circle format. As the teacher, I play the role of videographer and when there is only one circle, I publicly track the quality of student comments on the white board throughout the conversation. This is an effective way to let students know when their thinking is becoming more and more insightful. I use the colors green, orange, and red to color code the tally marks I make on the board. Green means that the student offered a comment that made sense and was explained well. Orange signifies that the students cited evidence with their comment, which is the goal for everyone to reach at least once in the seminar. Lastly, a red tally mark next to a student's name means that the student not only used evidence when they commented but also offered a keen insight using that text evidence. This kind of in-the-moment tracking encourages the students to really think about how to share thoughts in the Seminar that will allow their peers to dig deep into the text and create meaning. They strive for the red tally because it means their brain and their contributions to the Seminar are "on fire".
As with the Warm-up activity that gets the brain going at the beginning of class, my students end class with an activity that lets them feel closure with the lesson and their work for that day. The activity is almost always an online reflective journal or survey, and the purpose is to have an impact on and inform my planning for the next class. Sometimes we end the period with a whole-class conversation instead, especially after a Socratic Seminar day, because we use the conversation to debrief and think metacognitively about our discussion process as a whole group. Students should develop metacognition skills as a way of understanding how they learn. The debrief looks at the learning process for the day and is that opportunity for me to point out how different students learned well because they have certain strategies they used effectively. In this way, more students can benefit from that reflection. Literacy development requires so many strategies that operate differently given the text. When my students can benefit from understanding how they each learn, a strong sense of community and collaboration develops.
Although I can not predict when great insights will come up during a Socratic seminar, I can be assured that they will happen. I film the seminar because I then play back the footage to help me create accurate scripted notes that students can use as an additional resource to support their analysis writing. I have also found that using clips from the seminar to build a Gooru collection or to share during a moment of direct instruction is a very engaging way to teach. It also acknowledges what my students know and it allows them to, in essence, help me teach the class.
Assessment and data play a crucial role in a blended teacher’s classroom. Blended learning gives teachers an opportunity to assess consistently throughout a class, in a way that drives instruction, impacts grouping, and assignments. Blended educators have to develop capacity to sift through multiple sources of data and synthesizes quickly into action. Check out how Johanna utilizes Assessment and Data here.
In the "Google DOCtoring" strategy, a Google Document is shared among the members of a small student group or with the whole class. My students will then collectively annotate text evidence and/or give responses to questions about the class text. This strategy pushes each student's sense of accountability to the whole group, and it challenges all of my students to be clear in expressing their thoughts in writing. Early in the school year, I use the collaborative notes from Google DOCtoring sessions to assess my students' understanding and to push individual student's thinking. Once students become accustomed to working on Google Docs together, this strategy is also an efficient way to collaborate and build text analysis together that can later be used for Socratic Seminars and essays.
Peer to Peer Scoring is a feedback strategy I use regularly to ensure that my students become comfortable with and skillful at giving and receiving feedback about their academic work. In most cases, I develop rubrics to assess a particular skill and I ask the students to use the rubrics to score their peers' work on a given assignment. This strategy creates a common understanding of high-quality academic performance and the standards we use to assess that quality. Peer to Peer Scoring affords my students multiple opportunities to explain clearly their reasons for coming to a particular assessment of their peers' work, thereby helping each student to internalize what rigorous intellectual work consists of. Peer to Peer Scoring is also an effective scaffolding strategy to prepare my students for their Senior Research Projects, a rigorous graduation requirement at our school that culminates in seniors getting feedback from community members.
My students have a high-stakes oral defense of their senior research towards the end of the spring semester, and we prepare for that all year. The Video Diagnostic is a recording of each student’s starting point in the oral presentation process and an opportunity for students to see a snippet of their presentation "selves," what their peers see as their current strengths, and what their teacher sees as their current challenges. Each Video Diagnostic includes these three parts -- the oral presentation, peer feedback, and teacher feedback. These are then packaged into one short Video Diagnostic, uploaded, and shared to the student. The student watches it all and gets a clearer sense of how they appear to an audience in terms of their tone, inflection, pacing, and eye contact. I also have them watch these diagnostics a few weeks before the high-stakes presentation as a confidence booster because all of them will have made tremendous gains in their oral presentation skills from that first diagnostic to months later when they are finalizing their presentations at the end of the year.
One thing students can always count on in our Socratic seminars is that they will be recorded. Preparing for the Socratic Seminar involves watching film footage of the previous seminar discussion. Students can participate more effectively if we acknowledge what they are doing right, and they buy in more deeply to the idea of using evidence to back their claims when I do the same during this preparation process. In this case, I use evidence in the form of recorded footage to demonstrate their success with some key aspects of a quality academic discussion.For this strategy, the purpose is twofold. First, though I do not re-play each and every single video, I do feel that there is value in capturing student talk that can be made available for those students who can benefit from listening to their peers. This is why I upload and share the videos to all of the students. I have often used recordings of classroom discussion to inform how I will revise the same unit for the following year.The second purpose of this strategy is so that I can script verbatim the exchanges between the students that happen in the seminar. I then provide the students this script, and they can see what we call their “isms”. For example, a student might notice that they say the word “like” or “ya know what I’m sayin’” repeatedly in the seminar. These “isms” affect how people listening to them might respond, and by capturing them on paper, it gives the students evidence of what they will want to work on in terms of the way they orally present themselves. The scripts are also a useful resource for when students are constructing analysis through writing because they or their peers might have cited a strong quote or made a critical connection on which students can build their own analysis.
A valuable routine not only for my students but for my own learning as well is the use of video recording in the classroom. Key events to record are our academic discussions, their individual oral presentations, and as much as possible, their learning process as they build their skills. My students have a Senior Capstone Project and are expected to be able to present their research findings in both live and digital form. This is one example of a project where video recording becomes a necessary tool. From day one of the school year, the video camera slowly becomes a part of the village that is my classroom. Before students are recorded themselves, I show a significant amount of footage from previous years, whether it be past seniors giving advice about student mindset or a snapshot of a Socratic seminar. Students learn quickly that the video camera can be an amazing tool for helping them to become excellent presenters, and we discuss its value in capturing individual "isms" where a student has a particular presentation habit that needs adjusting. I also find it useful to record students giving each other peer feedback in addition to my own feedback. There is an added level of accountability when students know their feedback will also be recorded, which then leads students to focus on the language of the rubric to understand what is truly being assessed.
Our classroom is committed to being in the public eye, so that our work together has real-life meaning and authentic value. Thus, it is necessary that a culture is established in which everyone looks at each other as assets in the game where constructive criticism meets the oral presentation. This is key, especially in small groups when students will be giving peer-to-peer feedback and scoring each other on the same rubric that an outside audience will be using to score their presentation performance. When students do this kind of partner assessment, I find it most effective if the group only focuses on one or two of the rubric domains rather than the entire rubric. By concentrating their feedback, they are then able to take the next step -- developing a common and targeted set of strategies that they all can practice in order to become excellent oral presenters.