Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Portal of Change

The first week of a new approach can be nerve-racking and exciting all at the same time. I couldn't be more pleased with how the first week has gone. The first 3 days were spent experiencing the rationale behind the changes.

Day 1: Mr Miyagi and language learning through immersion (Thank you to whoever posted that idea!)
Day 2: What is a family? Standards-based grading and mentoring
Day 3: What is my grade? Why don't I have a letter grade? Flipping with mastery

A little background on what's different, aside from the above listed items: When I take students abroad, they love the family stay and say they learn the most. We learn our native language in the comfort of our homes surrounded by language users of all levels, novice through proficient. It is the respectful, nurturing environment, negotiation of meaning, and stronger speakers helping weaker speakers that produces a powerful learning environment. Students ranging from levels I, II, III, and IV are mixed in each class period to simulate this and arranged in “families” of each level. Level I learners are the “children”; Level II learners are the “parents”; Level III and IV learners are the “grandparents”. Between families there are also “cousins” and “uncles/aunts” to help, mentor, and ask questions if I am busy.

What I have noticed so far...

* Students are indeed learning from other students.
They are able to hear what more experienced language students are saying and produce the same structures, with meaning, without direct instruction!
* Students are indeed using what they learn from other students and applying it in an immersion situation. The repetition of the conversation and the simple sentences are catching on and staying with them. Even after a short amount of time, students are remembering what they learned the previous day(s) and applying it to what they are learning today for more complex sentences.
* Students who struggled under the previous learning environment are thriving in the immersion experience. Turning in multiple assignments wasn't their way of demonstrating learning; this gives them more hands-on learning. It should also be noted that those who were succeeding before are still succeeding in this environment as well.
* Students are loving the flip class model. After a couple days, some have already completed a course goal and are moving on to the next. They really like not being held back in order to "beating a dead horse", but rather go at their own pace.
* Students still need direction for how to learn independently. After 3 days of instruction, they still asked, "What am I supposed to do?" It is great to be able to sit down with these few students, side-by-side, and walk them through the process.
* Students are already starting to use their older mentors for help. In turn, older students have indeed been learning from the younger students.
* Students have been engaged in educational discussions to redirect their learning in this short beginning phase. The stage is being set for deeper discussions later about their learning process.

* Discipline issues have been minimal due to focus on learning rather than accumulation of points and task
* More students are on task for longer periods of time. Each has individual goals set and work on those goals until completion. Another goal is set and they work toward that goal. It's all about collecting skills.

The photos show the kids in action! There is the family environment with mentoring, immersion conversation, and flipped environment.

While this all sounds great and we're ready to get all you readers signed up, I am well aware that this is the "honeymoon" period and the wheels may very well fall off at some point. For now, I am excited for the where the possibilities are leading and it is all falling together as I had planned and hope! My next step is to complete a video for the parents to get on board with what we are doing in class and understand how their learner will be assessed.

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